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More Guidance Counselors Would Help More Children Get Ahead

Jun 5, 2008
Before becoming a writer, I spent ten years marketing Web-based job posting and resume tools to college career centers. One outcome of this experience is that I gained considerable appreciation for career counselors and guidance counselors at the high school level.

When I was in high school, I visited my guidance counselor to make my class schedule and research colleges. I had some idea of what I wanted before I came into the guidance office, so I probably benefited less than other students who were less certain about their career and educational options, or needed to speak to a counselor to get help on a personal problem.

Under No Child Left Behind, guidance counselors have several roles under participation and proficiency; they, more than teachers try to prevent students from dropping out of school and try to find assistance for students in need of tutoring or social services that their schools do not provide.

I would have to believe that schools that are continually in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind need qualified guidance counselors as badly as they need qualified teachers. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 13 percent growth in employment for school counselors, from 260,000 professionals in 2006 to 292,000 professionals by 2016. The American School Counselor Association recommends an average of one counselor for every 250 elementary and secondary school students; the national average is one counselor for every 476 students.

From FY 2005 through FY 2007, the federal government provided, on average $34.7 million funds for local education agencies to hire more elementary school counselors. In FY 2008, the Bush Administration finally appropriated sufficient funds - $48.6 million - to allow local education agencies to add secondary school counselors.

The increase is welcome, but the funding was still just a drop in the bucket. There is also a proposed Put School Counselors Where They're Needed Act to support 10 demonstration projects in poor performing schools that has been sitting in a House subcommittee since September 2007. That proposal is also not ambitious enough.

Given the major intentions of No Child Left Behind, to eliminate the "achievement gap," and to attain 100 percent proficiency within six years, I wish to offer a funding solution: to redirect $130 million allocated for the Youth Anti Drug Advertising Program in FY 2009 to help more schools, especially the worst performing, attract guidance counselors.

I know that's a stretch, but the federal Office of Management and Budget has stated on their web site, ExpectMore, that an independent, long-term evaluation found no connection between these anti-drug advertisements and youth drug use behavior. I also believe this is a great example of an opportunity for private sector volunteerism to take over for a government program.

If the federal government is serious about supporting a world-class education system, then an investment in counseling would be far more productive than an investment in advertising that hasn't worked.
About the Author
Contact Stuart Nachbar at Educated Quest, a blog on education politics, policy and technology or read about his first book, The Sex Ed Chronicle, a novel on education and politics in 1980 New Jersey, at Sex Ed Chronicles.
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