We live in a time where school counselors are essential — yet it seems our school counselors are not able to help in the areas they’re needed most.
That’s the message from a group of school counselors who spoke at Monday’s school board meeting. They say that the avalanche of standardized testing has led to a situation where school counselors who are responsible for coordinating tests spend very little of their time working with students.
Sara Moore, a school district specialist and counselor, told the school board that while national guidelines suggest school counselors spend 80 percent of their time in direct and indirect services to students in the areas of academic, career, and personal/social development. According to Moore, many of the district’s 16 counselors are spending less than half their time working with students.
The concern for the time spent by school district personnel administering tests has always been one of the biggest gripes about testing requirements. The mandate to test did not come with additional resources to implement a program and someone has to prepare and administer tests, and then compile all the results. That’s time that can’t be dedicated to meeting students’ needs.
But what’s the solution? Hire more staff to handle the workload? With the state’s financial outlook what it is, hiring test administrators doesn’t appear to be a good option. We want every dollar available going into the classroom, and the district already is looking at a budget shortfall.
The other option would appear to be changing the approach standardized testing. In fact, Democrats and Republicans in Congress already are butting heads over the best way to rewrite the No Child Left Behind legislation that ushered in the era of high stakes testing.
The concept behind No Child Left Behind is that with consistent testing — and measuring the results of that testing — educators can ensure that all students are receiving an adequate education. Or perhaps more to the point, all the data generated allows politicians to argue whether students are getting an adequate education.
The fact that schools and districts are compelled to do some self-evaluation is a positive effect. But we can argue that in terms of ensuring individual students are on the right track, academically and socially, a good school counselor can do the same thing. They just need to be given the opportunity to do their job to actually make sure we stop leaving children behind.