Guidance Counselors Have Power
Our world continues to update in educational reform and policy. The mechanisms put into place by administrators and school officials have a profound effect upon the students who walk through the school hallways. Creating accountability standards and high-stakes testing has put teachers at the forefront of the national spotlight for education. The pressure is placed upon them to get high test scores, make sure all students perform on grade level, and bridge the racial achievement gap. That is enough pressure to be combustible; however, among reform efforts there exists a position that would help revitalize education substantially. The guidance counselor is often someone who is behind the scenes in school action. It is often the most underutilized position in an education setting. And yet, it is the most pivotal and influential on a student’s education especially at the secondary level. From Gary Howard’s, We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know, educators, especially Caucasian ones, “have a choice to turn the full force of our privilege and power toward dismantling the very system that has granted us our historical advantage (140).” Those who have been historically underserved, those of color and females, may have the most to gain from a guidance counselor and a transformation may just show its true effectiveness.
In order to do so, the role of the guidance counselor must be defined. Traditionally, the guidance counselor has been a part of the mental health aspect since school integration. Students were seen for more personal rather school issues. Through modernizing of education, the school guidance counselor has evolved to handle academic tracks, course planning, and postsecondary explorations. Now counselors are also faced with such issues as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school violence, let alone trying to deal with the issue of equity. As education reform continues to fireball, there has been little emphasis on the guidance counselors’ role. This may be due to overlooking what guidance counselor’s ultimately contribute to education. And if they are devalued, their role is meaningless. This meaningless may stem from the fact that most of these counselor’s roles are unclear. They vary state to state and from school to school. When this is the case, they are used at the expense of administrators and other higher-ranking authority (House and Martin 285-86). This not only is ineffective leadership, but also is a disservice to the students when interests do not align with that of their needs.
In a study done by Valerie Lee and Ruth Ekstrom in 1987, they analyzed data from public high schools across the nation for effects of and direct access to guidance counseling. Their results highlight the educational disparity in equality of schooling. Students have to decide each semester what courses they need to take to graduate and meet all of the requirements for high school. But many of these students do not know what track they are in and which courses they should be taking. This service falls under the role of the guidance counselor. Lee and Ekstrom found that over fifty percent of students had not met with the guidance counselor to discuss any of their academic requirements (295-6). Many of them had been assigned an academic track without talking to a guidance counselor and most of the decisions regarding school were made with the students’ mother rather than a teacher or guidance counselor (Lee and Ekstrom 296). The most astounding result from their statistical research hints at the heart of the achievement gap, “Moreover, students who plan to attend any type of college (particularly a 4-year college), females, black students, Hispanic students, and rural students are significantly more strongly influenced by a counselor in panning for their post-high school year even when all other factors are equal (Lee and Ekstrom 304).” Some of these factors include the...