February 2-6 has been declared School Counseling Week in Utah. “School counselors are actively committed to helping students explore their abilities, strengths, interests, and talents, as these traits relate to career awareness and development,” said Governor Herbert in a declaration.
The Governor’s timing of this declaration not only coincides with national events recognizing the role of school counselors, but times well with currently proposed legislation that is the culmination of efforts of the past 12-18 months to improve counselor training on College and Career Readiness within Utah.
College and Career Readiness training of counselors needs improvement.
A 2012 survey of school counselors by the College Board found the top two areas school counselors could be most effective, if given the needed support and resources were:
- The completion of a college-preparatory sequence of courses
- College application rates
Furthermore, the survey found the majority of school counselors, with a graduate degree specializing in school counseling, indicate their graduate school did not adequately prepare them for the challenges they face on a daily basis – with college access being the most needed area of additional training.
The survey concluded that “students in schools where counselors are trained and held accountable for college-going activities are more likely to go to college.”
School Counselors are a major factor in informing students and parents on college.
A report by the Utah Foundation, presented to the Legislative Education Taskforce in 2013, found that college information counseling to students and their parents was one of six “best practice” policies employed by high-performing states. The report states:
Many students who intend to go to college do not ultimately enroll because of a lack of “college knowledge”—the understanding of college options, admissions criteria, how to prepare academically, and how to access the financial resources needed to attend.
Higher Education is leading out.
As part of higher education’s commitment to increasing student success in higher education by increasing degree completions, the Commissioner’s office has specifically focused on improving collaboration with K-12 counselors regarding college preparation in high school.
In partnership with the Utah State Office of Education, the Commissioner’s Office, the U of U, and USU have piloted an online college and career readiness training for school counselors, the first of its kind in Utah, to both pre-service (students) and in-service (currently employed) school counselors since early 2013. The outcomes of those pilots have provided a compelling case to make the training a licensed certification for school counselors statewide.
Representative Patrice Arent is sponsoring legislation, Strengthening College and Careeer Readiness (H.B. 198) directing the State Board of Education to develop a certificate in college and career counseling for school counselors, based on the efforts of USHE. The bill will also provide funds for grants to local schools, on a competitive basis, for payment of course fees for required courses to earn the certificate. The bill is supported by K-12 and the Governor’s Office.
If passed, this will provide additional resources focused on the most effective practices that inform students and parents on preparing for college and career. The legislation is a major collaborative step between K-12 and higher education in improving the training of K-12 counselors in college and career readiness skills.