Kenai Peninsula Borough School District counselors are concerned state regulated standardized testing is taking an unexpected toll on students.
At Monday’s School Board meeting, a group of seven counselors, including representatives from Kenai Central High School, Skyview Middle School and Soldotna High School spoke about the detriments of organizing the excess of annual exams.
“I am concerned that we are losing the very activities School Counselors are specifically trained for to excessive test responsibilities,” said District Specialist and Counselor Sara Moore said. “Our counselors are specifically trained for serving students, not for putting stickers on test booklets.”
Moore asked the school district’s 16 counselors to take the School Counseling Activity Rating Scale during a meeting on Jan. 23. The survey is designed to rate the actual and preferred frequency of functions that counselors may perform, she said.
Of non-test coordinator counselors, 100 percent routinely advise students regarding academic issues, whereas only 25 percent of test coordinators are able to accomplish academic advising, Moore said. Only 40 percent of non-test coordinator counselors routinely counsel with students regarding personal and family concerns, and that number drops to only 13 percent for test coordinator counselors, she said.
“They don’t feel as available to as many students as they want to be, and know they need to be,” Moore said.
The school district’s counselors operate under the American School Counselor Association’s National Model, Moore said. The plan recommends that school counselors spend at least 80 percent of their time in direct and indirect services to students in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development.
Not all KPBSD counselors are testing coordinators,” said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff. “Traditionally our counselors have been in charge of organizing the implementation of assessments, which can be state and federally mandated.”
LaDawn Druce, who works as a counselor at River City Academy, Soldotna High School and Ninilchik School said the workload increased even more at the start of this school year when the K-12 College and Career Readiness Standards changed again. The state now requires all graduating students must have taken the WorkKeys, SAT or the ACT.
The testing organizations set nation-wide test dates, and the school district can’t coordinate times that would work best locally, Druce said.
“Next year won’t be easier, we will just know the horror ahead of time,” Druce said. “Just know the sequel and know what’s coming ahead of time.”
The requirements make it physically impossible for counselors to help students, Druce said. The school district does not employ counselors in the elementary schools, which is where students will most directly benefit from social services, she said.
“We have been completely reactive, and not being proactive at all,” Druce said.
Ideally, a staff member would be designated to handle testing, Druce said.
Moore said she is optimistic because the school board and school district administration feel similarly about the challenges local counselors are facing.
The school district recognizes the frustrations surrounding testing as a result of the new requirements, Erkeneff said.
At the meeting board member Sunni Hilts said the school board plans to advocate for counselors in Juneau.
“You are preaching to the choir,” Hilts said.
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