Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

A Growing Role For School Counselors In Indiana, But Funds Needed

In this file photo, Mark Mazarella hosts a panel discussion and exhibit at the 55th Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association. School counselors address students' social-emotional, academic and college-and-career readiness needs. (ArmyStrongPA/Flickr)

This 2011 file photo is from a panel discussion at the 55th Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association. School counselors address students’ social-emotional, academic and college-and-career readiness needs. (ArmyStrongPA/Flickr)

School counselors help students improve their academics, address emotional needs and prepare for college and careers. Still, they’re a profession that often floats under the radar in the education world.

Indiana currently has a higher student-to-counselor ratio than most states. There’s currently one counselor for every 639 students statewide.

A new report from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says school superintendents and principals have favorable views of school counselors, but can’t always hire counselors when students need them.

“In Indiana we have a funding shortage for the number of school counselors that are truly needed at the schools,” said Jen Money-Brady, Indiana School Counselor Association president-elect. “We have enough counselors to fill those roles, it’s just finding the funding to be able to have the position available.

Brandie Oliver with Butler University’s School of Education helped author the Chamber of Commerce report. She agrees funding is a challenge.

She also says it’s important for school’s to embrace the evolving role of school counselors.

“Today’s counselor is definitely different from the counselor 20 years ago,” Oliver said. “School counselors address social-emotional need, academic needs and then college-and-career readiness needs.”

And that involves reaching students in a way counselors didn’t 20 years ago — addressing student trauma, toxic stress and other needs.

“When we think about college-and-career we have to think about it holistically,” Oliver said. “And so is student that’s kind of in crisis or worrying about trauma, are they really going to be able to look futuristically at their college-and-career?”

But challenges remain for school counselors to address the “career” part of “college-and-career readiness,” according to Oliver.

“Many counselors might feel pretty equipped with how to prepare and guide those students for college pathways,” Oliver said. “But there’s still a gap in knowledge and skills for students that are not going to pursue a traditional four-year college.”

Oliver says this can, in part, be remedied through increased access to data and other student tracking tools.

The Chamber of commerce report says the presence of school counselors positively impact a school’s climate and student emotional needs.



  • LeftofcenterHoosier

    Counselors are so important, not just in secondary schools, but also in elementaries. The classroom teachers are often the first to notice when a student needs extra support and direction, but with huge class sizes and more and more responsibilities, getting the time and privacy to help just can’t be done. Then, of course, there are problems that require someone with more expertise and training. And that is just a part of the counselor’s job.

    Counselors don’t deal just with simple issues in today’s schools. Unfortunately, sometimes students consider suicide, are victims of abuse, don’t have enough to eat, live in homes with drug and alcohol problems, and are even homeless. Part of dealing with these problems is creating and coordinating teams of individuals needed to give the students the needed assistance.

    Then, of course, is the career and further school guidance. Often school couselors give students aptitude inventories as well as career and beyond high school academic guidance.

    In addition to all of this, many counselors teach units dealing with subjects such as bullying, conflict resolution, and test anxiety.

    Counselors perform vital services, but with over 600 students/counselor, their jobs are sometimes impossible. There jobs are much more complex and necessary than most people recognize. They must have the support necessary to do their jobs well.

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