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Utah looks to add more school counselors

A new report reveals that Utah is progressing toward its goal that junior highs and high schools have at least one counselor for every 350 students, but 88 schools didn’t meet that ratio.

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Counselors also help students schedule their classes and make changes in their schedules.

One of the biggest problems for counselors, according to a survey by the College Board in 2012, is that schools throw many unrelated tasks their way, taking away from time they can spend with students.

At a glance

A call for counselors

National standards call for all K-12 schools to have school counselors, with a ratio of one for every 250 students.

The Utah State Board of Education considers them optional for elementary schools, and expects junior and high schools to have at least one counselor for every 350 students.

A report given to the board last week, however, said 88 Utah schools didn’t meet that ratio in October. Altogether, Utah schools need to hire 28 more counselors to meet the state’s recommended ratios.

These districts have the greatest gaps, needing this many more full-time counselors:

Davis, 4.82

Nebo, 4.67

Jordan, 3.78

Salt Lake City, 3.69

Provo, 3.62

‘I Love My Counselor’ Campaign

The Utah School Counselor Association is taking nominations from students, former students and adults to nominate their favorite Utah school counselors, past or present. A group will be honored during a Utah School Counselor Month event next month.

To nominate someone, email the counselor’s name and school, and a 200-word or more description of their good works to contest@utschoolcounselor.org by Jan. 31.

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‘A starting place’ • Mary Shumway, director of career and technical education for the Utah Office of Education, said that when the state board set the standard at one counselor for every 350 secondary students, it was trying to be realistic.

"It was a starting place," Shumway said.

But the national standard of 250 students is optimum, she said, and Utah — like most states — falls far short of that when elementary schools are included.

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Utah had the fourth-highest number of K-12 students per counselors in the country in the latest year for which national data is available, 2010-2011.

Wyoming had the best ratio — one counselor for every 200 students, while California had the highest, one counselor for every 1,016. Utah had one counselor for every 726 students, ranking ahead of only California, Arizona and Minnesota.

Davis and Wasatch districts have solid counseling programs for elementary schools, she said, but they’re the only ones, even though increasing data show just how valuable counselors are in helping young children with academic and behavioral issues get on the right track.

Data also support more counseling for junior high students, particularly since 8th grade is often when students make pivotal choices, she said.

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Shumway estimated that the ratio of counselors in Utah’s junior highs and middle schools is one for every 400 or 500 students.

The reason?

"It’s economic. It’s really budgets."


Twitter: @KristenMoulton

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