The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to ... ?· the relationships between the school counselor…

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<ul><li><p>1</p><p>Teachers College Record Volume 116, 100301, October 2014, 30 pagesCopyright by Teachers College, Columbia University0161-4681</p><p>The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline</p><p>CHENOA S. WOODS</p><p>University of California, Irvine</p><p>THURSTON DOMINA</p><p>University of California, Irvine</p><p>Background: Advising students on the transition from high school to college is a central part of school counselors professional responsibility. The American School Counselor Association recommends a school counselor caseload of 250 students; however, prior work yields incon-clusive evidence on the relationship between school counseling and school-level counseling resources and students college trajectories.</p><p>Focus of Study: This study evaluates the relationship between access to school counselors and several critical indicators of student transitions between high school and college.</p><p>Research Design: The study utilizes the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 to explore the relationships between the school counselor caseload and students progress throughout the high school-to-college pipeline. The key indicator is the counselor caseload for students at a given high school, measured as the number of 10th graders per counselor at the high school at which each student is enrolled. The outcome variables are students college expectations, whether students spoke with a counselor about college, taking the SAT, and college enrollment. Logistic and multinomial logistic regression analyses are applied to examine the relationships between these variables.</p><p>Findings: Students in schools with small counselor caseloads enjoy greater success at navi-gating the high school-to-college pipeline. Controlling for student- and school-level charac-teristics, students in schools where counselors are responsible for advising a large number of students are less likely to speak with a counselor about college, plan to attend college, take the SAT, and enroll in a four-year college.</p><p>Conclusions: The findings support the claim that a smaller school counselor caseload may increase students access to key college preparation resources and raise four-year college enroll-ment rates.</p></li><li><p>Teachers College Record, 116, 100301 (2014)</p><p>2</p><p>Although college attendance rates have increased greatly in the past sev-eral decades, issues of equity in the college preparation and admissions process persist. A large majority of high school students expect to attend college, yet fewer students enroll, and even fewer students graduate with a baccalaureate degree (e.g., Solorzano, Villalpando, &amp; Oseguera, 2005). The road from high school to college is particularly perilous for students from families with limited college experience, because many of these stu-dents lack access to information about college entrance requirements, selection criteria, and cost (Kirst &amp; Venezia, 2004). Without this critical information, it is difficult for students to realize their college expectations, and even high-achieving students fail to make the transition from high school to a postsecondary educational institution (Plank &amp; Jordan, 2001). </p><p>High school counselors have many duties, including providing students with informational and other assistance in college preparation and at-tendance. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA), which recommends that high schools maintain a ratio of 250 students per coun-selor, suggests that the role of school counselors includes responding to students academic, career, and personal/social development. High school counselors face the task of guiding students through adolescence into early adulthood, preparing them to be future citizens, college stu-dents, employees, and parents; they implement their counseling program by providing classroom guidance, individual student planning, responsive services, and by collaborating with other educators and community mem-bers (ASCA, 2012c, 2012d). </p><p>Although counselors are charged with the task of equitably serving all students, many scholars argue that counselors in schools that serve un-derrepresented students are often unable to effectively advise students because their caseloads are too large (Cabrera &amp; La Nasa, 2000; Corwin, Venegas, Oliverez, &amp; Colyar, 2004; Farmer-Hinton, 2008; Farmer-Hinton &amp; McCullough, 2008; Gonzlez, Stoner, &amp; Jovel, 2003; Hamrick &amp; Stage, 2004; V. E. Lee &amp; Ekstrom, 1987; McDonough, 1997, 2005; Muhammad, 2008; Perna et al., 2008; Rosenbaum, Stephan, &amp; Rosenbaum, 2010). The counselor caseload, sometimes referred to as the studentschool coun-selor ratio, is usually measured by the number of students in a school di-vided by the number of counselors in a school. Many counselors manage caseloads double or triple ASCAs recommended caseload. Nationally, the counselor caseload at the average high school is 471 students, and in California, the state with the largest caseload, counselors work with more than 1,000 students (ASCA, 2012b). Reasoning that manageable school counselor caseloads may facilitate more efficient counseling, several states, including Indiana, Maine, and New Hampshire have passed legisla-tion limiting the size of counselor caseloads (ASCA, 2012a). Nevertheless, </p></li><li><p>TCR, 116, 100301 The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline</p><p>3</p><p>with caseloads varying in size it is apparent that access to individualized college counseling is not available to all. </p><p>J. M. Lee, Edwards, Menson, and Rawis (2011) provide a slightly better picture, stating that as of 2008 the student-to-college counselor ratio was 320:1. College counselors are those who are responsible for providing college counseling, either as their sole responsibility or in combination with other counseling tasks. Although the size of average caseloads has decreased by 49 students between 1998 and 2009, most caseloads remain well above the recommended ratio of 250:1 (Clinedinst &amp; Hawkins, 2011; J. M. Lee et al., 2011).</p><p>The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between stu-dents access to college guidance, as measured by the size of the school counselor caseload, and college-going behaviors. Situated in the hypoth-esis that a more manageable school counselor caseload leads to additional opportunities for students to build social capital and progress through the high school-to-college transition, this study uses the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) to address how the size of the counselor caseload affects students postsecondary educational expecta-tions, preparation, and attendance patterns. The research questions are as follows:</p><p>1. What are the relationships between the counselor caseload and stu-dents college planning, information-gathering, and college-prepa-ratory behavior in 10th and 12th grade? </p><p>2. What are the relationships between the counselor caseload and stu-dents college enrollment patterns?</p><p>THE INFLUENCE OF SCHOOL COUNSELORS ON HIGH SCHOOL-TO-COLLEGE TRANSITIONS</p><p>The high-school-to-college pipeline begins as students develop their col-lege expectations, long before students enroll in college. Perna (2006) presents a model of college choice, which draws from both economic and sociological approaches. This model has four layers: habitus (Layer 1); school and community context (Layer 2); higher education context (Layer 3); and social, economic, and policy context (Layer 4). The out-er layers inform the inner layers, which then influence college choice. This study focuses primarily on the school and community context, but it stands to reason that the higher education context and macrolevel influ-ences have real impacts for counselors practices in schools. For example, universities changing admissions policies (Level 3) and state funding for school counselor positions (Level 4) can impact the extent to which </p></li><li><p>Teachers College Record, 116, 100301 (2014)</p><p>4</p><p>school counselors can engage in precollege counseling. The school envi-ronment helps to develop ones college-going habitus, or their beliefs and worldview, which influence their attitudes, goals, and in this case, educa-tional expectations (McDonough, 1997). </p><p>Counselors can potentially play an important role as students devel-op their educational plans and prepare for life after high school. They can influence students college predispositions, either by encouraging students to consider college and providing information or by acting as gatekeepers and redirecting students with unrealistic educational expec-tations away from higher education. Counselors can choose the amount and types of college and financial aid information to provide, effectively channeling students towards or away from different types of colleges (Freeman, 1997). </p><p>Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) describe counselors as institu-tional agents: people who not only have the ability, but also have the dedication to communicate institutional resources and opportunities (p. 117). One way that counselors do so is by influencing students col-lege-going habitus; primarily shaped by the individuals background and socialization, habitus defines a students view of his or her realistic pos-sibilities (Mass, Perez, &amp; Posselt, 2010). Counselors can influence stu-dents habitus directly, using their face-to-face interactions to encourage students to formulate high expectations and provide relevant informa-tion. Additionally, counselors can shape the college-going culture of the school itself, creating an institutional-level atmosphere that supports col-lege preparation and attendance for all students (Jarsky, McDonough, &amp; Nunez, 2009; McDonough, 1997). </p><p>In addition, counselors may increase students social capital. Coleman (1988) defines social capital as relationships that lead to action. When a student develops a relationship with a school counselor, he or she gains access to college knowledge, resources, and advice, which can play an important role in shaping a students future. Social capital factors such as encouragement from others or assistance on college applica-tions are closely linked to students likelihood of attending a four-year college; and for black and Latino students, these social capital factors are as important in predicting college attendance as academic ability (Perna, 2000). Counselors may have more influence in fostering college expectations for first-generation college students and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds compared to their peers with more college-related social and cultural capital (McDonough, 1997). However, nega-tive interactions between students and school counselors can dissuade students from approaching counselors for guidance, thus limiting stu-dents access to the potential social and cultural capital counselors hold. </p></li><li><p>TCR, 116, 100301 The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline</p><p>5</p><p>Additionally, the degree to which school counselors are able to engage in quality precollege counseling and act as positive institutional agents may be mitigated by larger school-, district-, or state-level regulations or resource limitations.</p><p>To effectively influence students habitus and social capital, coun-selors need to be involved consistently with students throughout their educational careers. Farmer-Hinton and McCullough provide a partic-ularly evocative description of this process, reporting that counselors at a college-prep charter school infuse college by engaging students in informal, yet repetitive conversations about college (2008, p. 85). Accordingly, the relevant literature generally assumes that counselors use their influence to broaden college access, and working with counsel-ors will have positive effects at each stage of the college choice process (Bryan, Moore-Thomas, Day-Vines, &amp; Holcomb-McCoy, 2011). These effects may be especially pronounced for students who have few other sources of college knowledge (Eccles, Vida, &amp; Barber, 2004; Freeman, 1997) because these students are more dependent on their school coun-selor to help them receive insider information and guide them through the application process (McDonough, 1997, p. 101; Rosenbaum, Miller, &amp; Krei, 1996).</p><p>However, counselors may also play a gate-keeping role, providing con-crete encouragement and information to students that they view as col-lege material and withholding information from students that they be-lieve are less likely to succeed in higher education. Studies of students in college prep programs, magnet schools, and charter schools that are organized around college preparatory missions provide some evidence to support this claim (V. E. Lee &amp; Eckstrom, 1987). When students enter into these programs and complete the advanced courses that are required for selective college admissions, they may signal their commitment to higher education to counselors, creating a continual loop in which counselors provide encouragement and information, which in turn helps students in these programs advance toward higher education (Farmer-Hinton &amp; McCullough, 2008; Tuitt, Van Horn, &amp; Sulik, 2011). Honors track stu-dents report that their counselors knew all of us by name (Gonzlez et al., 2003, p. 162). In these settings, counselors regularly provide students detailed information about scholarships, internships, and jobs as well as guidance on where to apply and attend college (Freeman, 1997). On the other hand, lower-achieving students report limited access to college re-sources (Kimura-Walsh, Yamamura, Griffin, &amp; Allen, 2009). </p></li><li><p>Teachers College Record, 116, 100301 (2014)</p><p>6</p><p>THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIGH COUNSELOR CASELOADS</p><p>Encouraging students to develop college expectations and advising stu-dents as they progress through the high school-to-college transition pro-cess is time-consuming work, particularly for counselors working with stu-dents who have access to few other reliable sources of information about college. Counselors faced with large student caseloads, therefore, may find it especially difficult to effectively assist all students. In such a setting, counselors may be more likely to serve a gate-keeping role as they make strategic decisions about which students to devote college advising time and energy toward (Corwin et al., 2004; Gonzlez et al., 2003; Kimura-Walsh et al., 2009). If this is the case, school-level counselor caseloads may be negatively associated with student college expectations, access to infor-mation and, ultimately, students odds of enrolling in higher education. </p><p>One explanation for providing students with limited college counseling is that, generally, counselors tend to wear many hats and have a diverse range of responsibilities. Public high school counselors report relatively equal amounts of time on counseling for preparing for postsecondary education, high school course scheduling, and personalsocial counsel-ing, and an additional 14% of their time is allotted to testing (Clinedinst &amp; Hawkins, 2011). School counselors are responsible for a variety of tasks including nonguidance activities and counselors role confusion may lead to...</p></li></ul>

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