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Profs take issue with report's assessment of high school counseling profession in an education journal op-ed

Two faculty members from Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education recently wrote an op-piece, "Another View of Counselors," for the March 22 edition of the online publication Inside Higher Ed.

Christine Ward, research scientist, and Tim Grothaus, assistant professor of counseling and human services and school counseling coordinator, together with Catherine Tucker, an assistant professor at Indiana State University, penned their commentary as a response to the Public Agenda Report "Can I Get a Little Advice Here," which they said sounded "a clarion call regarding success in K-12 schools and higher education."

A research group financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Public Agenda released the findings of a survey and the accompanying report on March 3, in which it identified problems associated with the provision of high school counseling today, including extremely large counselor caseloads and the practice of assigning additional non-related tasks to counselors. The report also, in tone, was critical of counselors themselves, Grothaus said.

In their response, Ward, Grothaus and Tucker wrote: "We agree with the report's suggestion that students from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds must complete some form of postsecondary education in order to gain skills necessary to compete in today's economy, and that school counselors play a crucial role in preparing students to succeed in the postsecondary arena. However, we believe that the report is in many aspects out of date with current trends in the counseling field."

They pointed out that the school counseling profession "is in the midst of a significant shift in focus and training," which they said now includes the collection of data to assess impacts in such areas as student achievement and success rates in postsecondary education. They added: "School counselors are currently trained to foster student academic achievement and enhance family and community collaboration in education."

The authors further noted: "While we are grateful that the Public Agenda report alerted readers to the dire situation facing our students, families and schools today, we fear that students and families who read the report may be inadvertently misled. We are concerned that students and families may be discouraged from seeking college and financial aid assistance from their counselors and could potentially miss out on pertinent opportunities.

"We are also concerned that students and families might view the report as rationale to utilize private counselors, who are available only to those who have the financial where-with-all to do so. Furthermore, in light of massive budget cuts in public education, we fear that the report will be used by some school districts as justification for eliminating counseling staff. Any of these scenarios are entirely unwarranted and serve to further the equity and access gap in higher education."

In their conclusion, the authors wrote: "While concern is merited and improvement in the types and efficacy of services provided is needed, school counselors have begun concerted efforts to systematically address barriers impeding student access to postsecondary education. School counselors will continue to engage in efforts to rectify the concerns addressed in the Public Agenda report while striving to make demonstrable differences in educational equity and success for all students."

The full text of the commentary can be viewed at http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/03/22/ward.

This article was posted on: March 29, 2010

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