NEW YORK — Without existing national data on how to best engage and utilize school counselors in today’s education reform efforts, the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA), in collaboration with Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates, commissioned the second 2012 National Survey of School Counselors, True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 2,890 middle and high school counselors and supplemented by a second survey of 439 school administrators.
“As a nation, we need to ensure we are fully leveraging school counselors to advance college and career achievement, while aligning this clear mission with their training, support and accountability,” said Pat Martin, assistant vice president of NOSCA. “Counselors are ready to lead; administrators are prepared to support them; and students in schools across America need their help. This year’s report helps point the way.”
The 2012 survey provides insights on school counselor efficacy, training, accountability and resources:
1. Efficacy: Counselors and administrators agree on counselors’ ability to increase college and career readiness for students.
- Counselors believe in their own efficacy and identified specific areas where they could achieve the highest impact. More than three-quarters of high school counselors agree on five items that they could effectively improve, given administrative support and resources:
- the completion of a college-preparatory sequence of courses (83 percent);
- college application rates (82 percent);
- students gaining access to advanced classes and tests (81 percent);
- transcript audits of graduation readiness (78 percent); and
- high school graduation rates (77 percent).
- Counselors and administrators have a shared vision of the mission of schools. The mission “to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have equal access to a high-quality education” receives the highest ratings from high school counselors and administrators, with 96 and 95 percent, respectively, rating it as an “8” or higher for how well it fits their ideal mission for the education system.
- Similarly, 92 percent of counselors and 93 percent of administrators reported that “ensuring that all students complete the 12th grade ready to succeed in college and careers” also fits a mutual ideal view of the education system.
- A total of 98 percent of administrators agree that school counselors should exercise leadership in advocating for students. (In 2011, 99 percent of counselors reported that they should exercise leadership in advocating for students’ access to rigorous academic preparation, as well as for other college and career readiness counseling, even if others in the school do not see counselors in this leadership role.)
2. Training: There is a strong correlation between counselor preparation and their students’ outcomes, but counselor training is currently inadequate.
- Counselors who are better trained are more likely to work in schools with higher rates of college attendance.
- While 27 percent of counselors who say they have sufficient training on at least five of the eight components work at schools with higher rates of college attendance, only 19 percent of counselors who have sufficient training on four or fewer of the components work at schools with higher rates of college attendance.
- When looking specifically at college readiness, counselors who feel better trained on how to provide high school students with the right college application materials are more likely to have students who go to college.
- Despite the fact that counselors and administrators endorse a college and career readiness framework (NOSCA’s Eight Components), for each component, at least 40 percent — and in many cases more than half — of school counselors say that they need some additional training or extensive further training.
- Less than half of counselors (43 percent) say that they have sufficient knowledge and training on “College Affordability Planning,” which includes ways to “provide information about college costs, financing, and the financial aid and scholarship processes so that students are able to plan for college and afford a college education.”
3. Accountability: Counselors and administrators support measures of accountability.There are currently very few accountability systems for school counselors. The majority of accountability systems related to school counselors are nonexistent, inconsistent or promote the wrong outcomes.
- One in five counselors (19 percent) report that there is no accountability system in place at all at their schools.
- Of those systems that are in place, there is little consistency between them. The only item that a majority of high school counselors report being held accountable to is their high school graduation rate, and even then only a slim majority — 52 percent — of high school counselors report this.
- Students in schools where counselors are held accountable to college-going activities are more likely to go to college. In particular, three measures of counselor accountability were linked to higher rates of college attendance: completion of college-preparatory courses (76 percent of students whose counselors are held accountable to this measure are college-going versus 73 percent of students whose counselors are not held accountable for this measure); college application rates (77 percent versus 73 percent); and college acceptance rates (77 percent versus 73 percent).
4. Resources: Counselors can be at the leading edge of making increased postsecondary and career readiness a reality, but they cannot do this work in isolation.
- The survey provided insights into areas where the work of school counselors could accelerate student achievement.
- For example, because of the focus on college readiness, the Common Core is tightly linked to counselors’ work — and counselors should be fully engaged in its implementation. However, only 30percent of counselors rate their training on the Common Core as an “8” or higher, whereas a majority of administrators (88 percent agreeing with an “8” or higher) believe counselors should receive training in the Common Core State Standards.
- Counselors’ in-school and out-of-school partners are not collaborating. Less than one-third of counselors (32 percent high school and 30 percent of middle school) say that they intentionally collaborate with outside organizations and businesses to support college and career readiness activities. Only two out of five counselors (41 percent of high school and 38 percent of middle school counselors) say that the teachers in their schools support these types of interventions. Less than half of counselors (47 percent of high school and 39 percent of middle school counselors) say that they know how to apply interventions in ways that keep students’ parents and families actively involved.
“The correlations are significant and important between student college attendance rates and factors about their schools’ counselors, including having counselors who are trained in college and career readiness and having systems that hold counselors accountable for student outcomes,” said Allan Rivlin of Hart Research, “and these relationships hold up even when controlling for other important factors such as student caseload, years of experience, and the economic indicator of the proportion of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch.”
In addition to the national survey, the eight largest states were targeted for an oversample so that we could report state-specific information: California (218 completes), Florida (186), Illinois (177), New York (237), Ohio (173), Pennsylvania (221), Texas (291) and Virginia (139). Their results on select findings presented in this report are available in the appendix of the full report.
“The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, with generous support from the Kresge Foundation, wants to leverage this unique but underutilized professional resource to improve college readiness for millions of students,” added Christen Pollock, vice president of the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.
The report also featured seven case studies of proven and promising practices in schools and districts across the country. They are Chicago Public Schools (Chicago, Ill.); Clifton Middle School (Houston, Texas); Denver Public Schools (Denver, Co.); Granite School District (Salt Lake City, Utah); Hillsborough County Public Schools (Tampa, Fla.); William M. Raines High School (Jacksonville, Fla.); and Yonkers Public Schools (Yonkers, N.Y.).
"School counselors are underleveraged resources in our nation’s schools. They have a unique role to play in helping students navigate toward college and career, see themselves as leaders in schools, and want to be accountable for student outcomes. Let’s ensure their training and deployment in schools gives them that chance,” said Mary Bruce, education policy analyst at Civic Enterprises.
About the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center: The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center was established to help transform education in America. Guided by the College Board’s principles of excellence and equity in education, the Center works to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. Critical connections between policy, research and real-world practice are made to develop innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges in education today. Drawing from the experience of the College Board’s active membership consisting of education professionals from over 6,000 institutions, priorities include: College Preparation & Access, College Affordability & Financial Aid, and College Admission & Completion.
About NOSCA: NOSCA has over 11,000 counselors actively involved in regular advocacy efforts focused around their Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling. This comprehensive systemic approach helps school counselor inspire and prepare students for college success and opportunity — especially students from underrepresented represented populations. The Eight Components, which are referenced throughout the survey, build aspirations and social capital, offer enriching activities, foster rigorous academic preparation, encourage early college planning, and guide students and families through the college admission and financial aid processes.
About Civic Enterprises: Civic Enterprises is a public policy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country. Created to enlist the private, public and nonprofit sectors to help address our Nation’s toughest problems, Civic Enterprises fashions new initiatives and strategies that achieve measurable results in the fields of education, civic engagement, health, and many more. For information about Civic Enterprises, please visit their website at www.civicenterprises.net.
About Hart Research: Hart Research has been one of America’s leading public opinion and strategic research firms for four decades. Throughout that time, Hart has been at the forefront of identifying and understanding Americans’ changing expectations, attitudes, and behaviors, and views on public policy. Hart Research’s clients come from virtually every sector of society, including politics, labor unions, media, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations including many Fortune 500 corporations. For more information about Hart Research, please visit their website www.hartresearch.com.