School Counselors

In honor of National School Counseling Week (to be celebrated this February 7-11, 2022) we wanted to make sure folks understand why our school counselors deserve our appreciation, why it’s so important to understand the valuable work they do, how significantly understaffed they are, and the impact that has on our kids.

In this Forbes article, Stimulate This: How School Counselors Will Help Save Our Post Pandemic Future

The author writes:
“… the American School Counselor Association(ASCA) recommends a ratio of 250 students per counselor, according to Department of Education statistics, the national average is 430-to-1.”

“The schools where there is a greater need for more counselors are those in which these educators are pulled in many different directions, confronting student mental health struggles, food insecurity, abuse, and other issues.”

In Jeffco we have several schools where the ratio far exceeds the recommended 250-to-1, and a few that exceed the 430-to-1 ratio. A good example of that would be Bear Creek K-8 with a Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) rate (how poverty is determined) 43%, 953-to-1. Even if this were the ratio at a school where the population was at the high-end of the economic scale, it would still be a disservice to its students (let alone the poor counselor trying to do the job of 3 or 4 people). Including the FRL rate only adds a huge insult to injury.

953-to-1 Bear Creek K-8 43% FRL
953 Enrollment/1 FTE Counselor 953 Caseload

Other bulging caseloads far beyond what is recommended by ASCA:

Bear Creek HS 42.1% FRL
1488 Enrollment/4.0 FTE Counselor 372 Caseload

Chatfield HS
1784 Enrollment/5 FTE Counselor 357 Caseload

Columbine HS
1701 Enrollment/5 FTE Counselor 357 Caseload

Bradford K-8 North
315 Enrollment/.5 FTE Counselor 630 Caseload

Carmody MS 44.8% FRL
639 Enrollment/2 FTE Counselor 320 Caseload

Foster K-8 48.9% FRL
348 Enrollment/ .5 FTE Counselor 696 Caseload

This document includes the latest counselor information as obtained from district staff and referenced above – 2021-22 Jeffco School Counselor Caseloads

As we look at graduation rates and a concern over their decline (in Jeffco and the state, as a whole), and which students actually go on to post-secondary, the importance of access to counselors for career counseling increases. What then does it mean for the students at
Bear Creek HS where there are 4(FTE) counselors for a student enrollment of 1,488?
Chatfield HS where there are 5 (FTE) counselors for a student enrollment of 1,784?
Columbine HS where there are 5 (FTE) counselors for a student enrollment of 1,701?

Based on the fact that COVID-19 and mental health issues among our youth have almost redefined the work of the school counselor, how can we expect counselors overtaxed with unmanageable caseloads to balance the need for college and career counseling?

“Tori Berube is the vice president for college planning and community engagement for NHHEAF…“We know school counselors were taxed before Covid-19,… the mental health and general well-being of students are going to be taking the bulk of their time. We knew before the pandemic that college and career counseling was just a very small component of school counseling work.” She worries that post-secondary planning will slip further down counselors’ list of responsibilities.”

Like everything else when it comes to staffing and providing services for our students in the world of public education, it’s a matter of funding (or underfunding) and how our already strapped school districts direct funding to achieve their priorities/goals (or try to). And when push comes to shove, there just isn’t enough.

As a state, Colorado just flat-out needs to do a better job of funding our public schools. It’s not fair to ask so much when we aren’t willing to provide the resources needed to give them a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.

Know that we appreciate you, but thanks and an appreciation week is not enough for our counselors or any other staff!