Friday, October 09, 2015

SB 451: NEW LAW CALLS FOR MODERNIZED ROLE FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS …even if there’s only 1 for every 847 students!


by Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet

October 08, 2015 (Calif.)  ::   By tying new requirements for student counseling to a set of state education goals, a bill signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown articulates the state’s desire for school districts to modernize strategies around college and career preparation.

Districts are not mandated to provide school counseling programs but if they do, the new law requires that students receive guidance in a number of areas more intently focused on career exploration as well as planning a pathway to get there, whether through college or trade school.

“This changes the landscape in the sense that what it does is it defines what school counselors should be doing in terms of today’s standards,” said Loretta Whitson, executive director of the California Association of School Counselors, which sponsored SB 451.

“This also offers a guide for school administrators to help them in use their support staff in ways that will make a positive difference for students,” she said.

The law comes as schools and districts not only in California but across the nation struggle to provide even meager access to academic counselors, whose numbers – already abysmal – were slashed even further following the onset of the 2007 recession.

SB 451, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, comes with no budget allocation but the good news, according to Whitson, is that counselor positions in California schools have been on the upswing in recent years with a 17 percent increase since the 2013-14 school year. That moves the state up one spot from last in the nation in terms of student-to-counselor ratio but there is still only one advisor for every 847 students, said Whitson, who tracks the numbers herself using state data.

Whitson said a majority of districts in the state do offer comprehensive counseling services – those that don’t are rare, she noted, but state statutes directing those programs have not been updated since 1987, and do not reflect a number of changes in education policy, including school finance, accountability, discrimination and safety, and college and career readiness.

The legislation was written to align school counseling services in a way that helps districts meet eight statewide education priorities adopted in the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula. Districts must outline in Local Control Accountability Plans how they use state money to meet those goals, aimed at closing learning gaps and graduating more students college and career ready.

This bill revises statutes for school counseling programs “by expanding the definition of academic counseling to include counseling in understanding the relationship between academic achievement and career success, the value of career technical education and career readiness, and postsecondary options,” stated the author in a legislative analysis of the bill.

SB 451 would require that districts offering a comprehensive school counseling program address, among other things:

  • Development and implementation, with parental involvement, of the pupil’s immediate and long-range educational plans
  • Optimization of progress towards achievement of proficiency standards
  • Completion of the required curriculum in accordance with the pupil’s needs, abilities, interests, and aptitudes
  • Academic planning for access and success in higher education programs,  including advisement on courses needed for admission to public colleges and universities, standardized admissions tests, and financial aid
  • Career and vocational counseling, in which pupils are assisted in doing all of the following:
  • Planning for the future. future, including, but not limited to, identifying personal interests, skills, and abilities, career planning, course selection, and career transition.
  • Becoming aware of their career potential: Personal preferences and interests that influence educational and occupational exploration, career choice, and career success
  • Developing realistic perceptions of work: Work, the changing work environment, and the effect of work on lifestyle
  • Understanding the relationship between academic achievement and career success, and the importance of maximizing career options.
  • Understanding the value of participating in career technical education and work-based learning activities and programs, including, but not limited to, service learning, regional occupational centers and programs, partnership programs, job shadowing, and mentoring experiences.
  • Relating to the work world. Understanding the need to develop essential employable skills and work habits.
  • Understanding the variety of four-year colleges and universities and community college vocational and technical preparation programs, as well as admission criteria and enrollment procedures.

The bill also calls for professional development and training for school counselors so that they are prepared and capable of guiding students effectively.

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