School counselor with student
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School counselors are no exception to the nationwide shortage of school staff. It is not uncommon for students to attend a school with police on staff but no counselors.

Where does Connecticut stand within the context of a nationwide shortage of about 300,000 teachers and staff? According to National Education Association President Becky Pringle, the shortage has forced schools across the country to improvise in the face of the stresses exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country, counselors are facing a more challenging workload than ever before. Since 1965, the American School Counselor Association has recommended a counselor-to-student ratio of 250:1. Only two states – Vermont and New Hampshire – meet that criteria. The most severely impacted states, such as Arizona and Michigan, have nearly triple the recommended ratio. It is worth noting there has been little research on the “optimal” counselor caseload (at the time or since the recommendation). Still, the current situation is raising concern across the country.

Charlie Health compiled school counselor-to-student ratio data from the American School Counselor Association and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Connecticut statistics
– Student to school counselor ratio: 349:1
— #17 most counselors per student among all states
— 1,458 counselors to 509,058 students

National statistics
– Student to school counselor ratio: 415:1
– 118,902 counselors to 49,356,945 students

States with the most counselors
#1. Vermont: 186:1 student to counselor ratio
#2. New Hampshire: 208:1
#3. Hawaii: 268:1
#4. Colorado: 278:1
#5. Montana: 291:1

States with the least counselors
#1. Arizona: 716:1 student to counselor ratio
#2. Illinois: 665:1
#3. Michigan: 638:1
#4. Minnesota: 592:1
#5. California: 572:1

School counselors differ from school psychologists primarily in the depth of their relationship with students who need support. Counselors based in the schools are a resource for the entire student population and focus on individual or group sessions to build skills to overcome social and behavioral challenges and improve academic performance. In contrast, school psychologists conduct mental health evaluations, diagnose mental health issues, and write individual education plans.

While a counselor’s purview may be less specific, they are no less critical to student success. These services are acutely important today as students work through a backlog of pandemic-related issues. According to the results of the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics assessment administered to fourth and eighth graders across the country, these students experienced the most significant drop in academic performance in more than 30 years.

Access to mental health support is essential to student success. In October 2022, the Department of Education earmarked $280 million for two grant programs to help schools improve this access through training and hiring credentialed mental health professionals.

This story originally appeared on Charlie Health and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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