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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Counselors are the first to be cut

Colorado is investing in school counselors to improve success rates for low-income students reports Hechinger’s Sarah Gonser.

As of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, graduation rates among participating schools had risen from 65 percent to nearly 80 percent, while dropout rates declined. Enrollment in high school career-and-technical programs doubled. Completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid increased to 54 percent, compared to 48 percent for the state, and the share of students taking college-level courses grew to 74 percent, compared to 48 percent at non-funded schools.

Elsewhere, counselors are considered a low priority, said David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.

 “When there’s a budget cut, counselors are the first to go,” said Hawkins. He points to the major reductions the Philadelphia school system made to its counselor rolls, along with its teaching corps, when the district faced a budget crunch in 2013.

Colorado now has 383 students per counselor, more than the recommended caseload of no more than 250 students, but better than the national average of 482 students per counselor, writes Gonser.

William J. Palmer High School in Colorado Springs had nine counselors for about 2,170 students last year, she writes. After analyzing dropout data, counselors created a program for tenth graders. “The program, now in its first year, serves 11 students, all of them Hispanic. Students take a weekly study skills class, which is designed to help them regulate their emotions, become self-advocates and build a relationship with a counselor.”

College-bound seniors take a class that teaches strategies for paying for college, financial literacy and advanced study skills.

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