Does School Counselor Proposal Fix Only Half the Problem?

Nov 30, 2018

Lawmakers are about to consider a proposal to realign the role of school counselors to make sure they don’t spend all their time administering tests.

But critics say the proposal falls short of addressing the real issue.

Schools don’t just need new employees to administer tests. They also need more counselors. That’s the conclusion of Chris Duncome at the Commonwealth Institute. 

Duncome says the recommendations of the Select Committee on School Safety missed the mark by failing to recommend investing in more counselors to bring down caseloads. “It would be financially easier to make an investment in some administrative staff and then to just shift responsibilities of counselors to have more time spent with students, and I don’t think that is adequate,” Duncome said.

The American School Counselors Association says schools should have one counselor for every 250 students. But making that happen in Virginia would cost about $82 million.

Rachel Deane at the Legal Aid Justice Center says failing to invest in more counselors will only contribute to higher caseloads. “So when school professionals have higher caseloads, it means they are less able to spend that one on one time directly with students and students aren’t getting the services they need.”

Lawmakers will have a choice when they arrive in Richmond for the General Assembly session in January. Follow the recommendation of the select committee, and fund new test administrators. Or go beyond the recommendations and also invest in enough school counselors to bring caseloads down.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.