The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 12, 2014

Our View: Schools need more counselors

Why it matters: Counselors are key to helping students succeed academically and socially

Most parents would wince at the counselor-to-student ratios in schools statewide and in the Mankato area.

Knowing that their child might be in a line of 400 students locally or 700 in some parts of the state to see one counselor would, to most parents, not seem reasonable.

Minnesota has a school counselor ratio of 1 to 792 students, a ranking of 48 th in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It’s a terrible record and one that all of Minnesotans should want to improve quickly.

A recent in-depth report by The Free Press detailed a heavy workload for counselors in the Mankato Public Schools. The ratio of counselors is one for every 475 students. The school district also has six social workers and eight school psychologists to help meet varying needs of students.

But one elementary counselor has 775 students assigned to her. A junior high counselor has 522 students. High school counselors have 350 to 400 students. Smaller school districts in the Mankato region have ratios that are even higher.

School counselor-to-student ratios should be closer to 250 to 1, according to the American School Counselor Association.

To their credit, the school counselors interviewed for The Free Press story all say they remain positive about their role and do as much as they can with the students they see and the resources they have. They’re not throwing up their hands because of the low ratios, but they also see a real need for more counselors and their arguments are reasonable.

School counselors are the first line of defense for students who might stray. They can advise on academics and some of the less serious social problems, but they also must balance the needs of all. While dealing with one student’s social needs, they also have to pay attention to the college goals of other students.

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