California is the #5 state with the least school counselors


Schools across the country were short about 300,000 teachers and staff when the 2022-2023 school year began, according to Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. This dire shortage has forced a series of unfortunate developments in schools across the country.

Principals are playing gatekeepers, schools are implementing four-day school weeks to attract applicants to teaching positions with the promise of better work-life balance, and many districts are relaxing required teaching credentials to expand the applicant pool. This crisis of discord has been brewing for more than a decade and has reached a boiling point in the intolerable conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

School counselors are not exempt from this crisis. It is not uncommon for students to attend a school with police personnel but no counselors.

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 criterion. The worst-affected states, such as Arizona and Michigan, have nearly tripled the recommended ratio. It is worth noting that little research has been done on consultants’ caseloads (at the time or after the recommendation). However, the current situation is causing concern throughout the country.

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

Read on to see how California compares to other states or read the national story here.

California statistics
– Student/school counselor ratio: 572:1
— #5 minimum counselors per student among all states
— 10,602 guidance counselors to 6,064,504 students

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

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

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

School counselors differ from school psychologists primarily because of their deep relationships with students who need help. School-based counselors are resources for the entire student population and focus on individual or group sessions to develop skills to overcome social and behavioral challenges and improve academic performance. In contrast, school psychologists conduct mental health assessments, diagnose mental health problems, and write individualized education plans.

While a counselor’s remit may be less specific, they are no less important to student success. These services are very important today as students work with the backlog of pandemic-related issues. According to results from the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress math assessment of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country, these students experienced the sharpest decline in academic performance in more than 30 years.

Access to mental health support is critical to student success. In October 2022, the Department of Education allocated $280 million to two grant programs to help schools improve that access by training and hiring mental health professionals.

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

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