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Report: Michigan has fewer school counselors per student than almost any other state

Backs of schoolkids with colorful rucksacks moving in the street
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Backs of schoolkids with colorful rucksacks moving in the street

An American School Counselor Association report says Michigan has the country's second-highest ratio of students to school counselors. The state had 598 students for every one counselor during the 2022-2023 school year. Only Arizona had a higher ratio with 667 students for every counselor.

The data was collected from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. The report focuses on K-12 school counselors. The national average was 385 students to school counselors, down from 408 during the 2021-2022 school year, the association said. Michigan's ratio rose, though: The state had 615 students per counselor during the 2021-2022 school year.

The association recommends 250 students for every counselor.

Angela Hickman is the group's director of research and marketing. “The 250 to 1 is a general guide. Really, it's likely that we would prefer to see even lower among high schools,” she said, citing high school counselors' increased responsibility.

Hickman said high ratios cause higher caseloads, which hinder a counselor’s ability to help students. “Our research shows us that ratios really do matter. For example, lower student-to-school counsel ratios improve student attendance, GPA, standardized test performance, and graduation rates,” she said.

As for reasons the state has high ratios, Terri Tchorzynski, president of the Michigan School Counselor Association pointed out that counseling is not mandatory for schools in the state. “So even if they have a counselor, they usually have higher caseloads of students and we see less in middle school and minimal school counselors in elementary.”

Tchorzynski said that counselors being employed for clerical roles that don’t meet their job description also drove them away from the position. She said that the recruitment was key to getting more counselors. “How we can attract more people, not just in school counseling, but in education in general, whether that be some incentivizing of pay or resources or whatever it is.”

Copyright 2024 Michigan Radio

Alvin (AJ) Jones