School Counselors’ Critical Role in Meeting the Eight State Priority Areas and Needs of Legislatively Protected Youth
The elimination of categorical programs that once provided funding for school counselors creates a sense of urgency to advocate for including school counselors in Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP). Unlike many other states, California does not require school counselors, not even in high schools. There is no guarantee that any student, needy or not, will receive any school counseling services. Some districts “choose” to fund base fund school counselors K-12, and others do not. Many districts that previously utilized categorical dollars to fund base and/or additional at-risk counselors will now need to include them in the LCAP. Learn more by reading below and watching this.
Pupil Support Services are listed as one of many allowable expenses in the description of “Services” associated with Code section 42238.07. Funding school counselors in the LCAP requires the district demonstrate how school counseling meet the needs and improve the performance of all pupils. Comprehensive school counseling programs can contribute to all eight state priority areas of the LCAP, including those for legislatively protected youth. Data driven accountable school counseling programs support the conditions of learning, pupil outcomes, and engagement requirements.
A. CONDITIONS OF LEARNING
Basic Service: Similar to teachers, school counselors must be credentialed and provide appropriate services to students utilizing quality instructional materials. School counselors contribute to improving the basic service conditions of learning when they promote equitable student access to fully credentialed teachers. School counselors are responsible to ensure all students, particularly traditionally marginalized students, have access to high quality instruction and high quality standards-based instructional materials. School counselors serve as student advocates when they become aware students are receiving developmentally inappropriate or inferior instructional materials. School counselors advocate for equitable facilities use (e.g. classroom assignment and access to technology).
Implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS): School counselors contribute to the successful implementation of CCSS by partnering with classroom teachers and administrators to promote a climate of high expectations. School counselors participate on leadership teams, data based decision-making teams, and academic and behavioral intervention teams. School counselors ensure all students receive standards-based college and career focused curriculum and that those students who need additional instruction receive it. School counselors ensure all students receive a six-year individualized learning plan, and that students receive Tier 2 interventions when needed.
Course Access: School counselors promote a program of study that prepares all students for college and career. School counselors collaborate with teachers and administrators to create and ensure transparent and equitable course access opportunities. School counselors advocate for student to take rigorous courses and use data to discover and eliminate access, opportunity and attainment gaps. School counselors work to dispel the myth for underserved, underperforming or underrepresented youth. They challenge those with low expectations for students of color, students in poverty, English language learners, first generation, special needs, and foster youth. School counselors analyze student transcripts, identify credit deficiencies, provide remediation and credit recovery options and ensure systems of support are in place for students in need of additional assistance.
B. PUPIL OUTCOMES
Pupil Achievement: School counselors help students and parents understand the nature and importance of standardized tests, teach test taking strategies, interpret test results and their impact, and provide referrals to interventions supporting improvement on standardized tests. School counselors are responsible to ensure all students are prepared to graduate college and career ready. School counselors monitor EL proficiency status and advocate for EL reclassification and appropriate course placement. School counselors educate students and parents about the benefits of Early Assessment Programs (EAP) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, encourage enrollment in and advocate for equitable placement into Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
Other Student Outcomes: School counselors educate students and parents on multiple academic pathways. They monitor student course enrollment patterns offered as well as students enrolled in those pathways. School counselors educate students about the importance of standardized testing and monitor results in ACT, SAT, PSAT, CAHSEE passage rates. Other outcome data include the number of students enrolling in and successfully completing career technical education programs and internships. Finally, school counselors monitor student enrollment in and successful completion of community college and four year colleges and universities.
Parent Involvement: School counselors promote parental involvement and participation by ensuring their programs and services meet the academic and cultural needs of the student and family. School counselors provide workshops for parents on a variety of topics including parenting skills, successful student strategies, transiting elementary/middle and middle/high school, course selection processes, college/career planning, and financial aid. School counselors participate in SSTs, IEPs and parent/teacher conferences providing expert advice on appropriate interventions and resources. School counselors meet with parents to review of their students’ (4-6 year) academic learning plans, discuss college/career planning, to ensure students are on track to graduate and to resources for remediation and an opportunity to participate in interventions. School counselors participate as members of a variety of school-wide advisory committees (e.g. DLAC, ELAC, LCFF, etc.). Finally, school counselors seek parent feedback and recommendations for creating and supporting safe, welcoming family friendly schools.
Pupil Engagement: School counselors teach students and parents the benefits of attendance of good attendance, participate in school-wide positive attendance rallies and support attendance improvement initiatives. School counselors monitor truancy rates and other drop out risk indicators, and design data-driven mechanisms that trigger the need for intervention. School counselors meet with students to discover the issues contributing to their lack of student engagement. They provide a variety of interventions including individual and/or group counseling, parent and/or teacher conferences, schedule changes, tutoring, RtI, SST or IEP referrals, referrals to community agencies, or social service interventions. School counselors participate as members of the School Attendance Review Board (SARB). School counselors create transition plans from middle to high school and seek credit recovery options to improve graduate rates. Finally, school counselors advocate for alternative education options when necessary to prevent or avoid student drop out.
School Climate: School counselors utilize school climate data (referrals, suspensions, California Health Kids Survey) to determine curriculum and targeted intervention needs. School counselors participate on leadership teams implementing school-wide behavior programs (e.g. PBIS). They oversee implementation of evidence-based curriculum in violence prevention (e.g. Steps to Respect and Second Step). School counselors coordinate peace patrols and peer mediation programs. They provide systemic interventions (individual and small group counseling) for students with frequent behavior referrals, and post suspension conferences for students and parents. School counselors advocate for socially just and equitable implementation of discipline policies and interventions. When the scope of need is outside their role, school counselors refer students and families to appropriate community resources.
Legislatively Protected Youth: Districts with high-needs students (55% or more) will be allowed to spend supplemental dollars for school wide purposes as long as the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) specifies how expenses will contribute to raising achievement for targeted students. LCFF regulations are silent on ways school counselors support and provide services for legislatively protected youth: English Learners (EL), Limited Income (IE), and Foster Youth (FY). Students in legislatively protected groups often require additional counseling support, assistance and interventions from the school counselor. Inconsistent attendance, language barriers, lack of access to resources, and frequent school transfers can compromise the academic success of students. School counselors are key members of the team providing support for legislatively protected students.
School districts could include in their plan hiring additional “at-risk” school counselors to provide specific and targeted services (prevention and intervention) for students identified as EL, LI and FY. For example, EL students may require more specific college/career and financial aid information (Dream Act) or transcript translation and analysis. Foster youth may require creative credit earning options, support for mid semester course enrollment and complex transcript analysis. Low-income students may need access to technology for college applications or fee waivers for college enrollment or AP testing. These targeted groups of students may also require more frequent monitoring of student progress, parent or guardian assistance and support and intensive interventions to address academic and behavioral barriers to learning.
School counselors provide a voice for those who have no voice, promoting a school climate where the bias of low expectation, social inequities and negative stereotypes towards marginalized groups is professionally challenged. Finally, school counselors partner with other educators to advocate for policies and practices that promote access and opportunity for high needs students.
Local decision makers will determine how funds will be spent and therefore which, if any students will receive specific and vital school counseling services. A brief window of opportunity exists for the power of united voices to advocate for school counseling in district LCAPs. Educational leaders and stakeholders are reminded to think of the difference school counselors can make each and every day in the lives of students they serve and encouraged to prioritize their decisions accordingly.