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Issues of access and equity to school counselors drive professors’ research

Issues of access and equity to school counselors drive professors’ research
Scholarly work wins Article of the Year Award from the Journal of Education Finance

Educational leadership faculty members Karen DeAngelis and Brian Brent and doctoral student Caiqun Xu at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education have been named winners of the 2023 National Education Finance Academy (NEFA) Journal of Education Finance Article of the Year Award. 

The academic award is given annually to researchers whose manuscript in the Journal of Education Finance demonstrates exceptional scholarly quality. The Rochester coauthors won the award for their article “Providing Guidance: An Inter- and Intra-State Analysis of Adequacy and Equity in the Availability of School Counselors,” published in the journal in its spring 2022 issue. 

Using 2018-19 data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Common Core of Data and the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) recommended ratio of 250 students or less per counselor as a proxy measure for adequacy, their research provides the first comprehensive account of adequacy and equity in the distribution of counseling resources in K-12 school districts across the nation. Their work revealed the inadequacies and inequities in the distribution of school counselors among and within states. 

In the article, the coauthors describe differing views about the importance of school counselors, varying state-level mandates (or lack thereof), and differences in local factors—including district spending, district setting, student characteristics, and district size—as some of the factors associated with the variation of student-counselor ratios across states and districts within states. While their work revealed significant variation in students’ access to school counselors, they found many students do not have access to an adequate level of school counselors as recommended by ASCA. Nationally, the average student-counselor ratio was double the ASCA recommendation. 

A dozen states mandate a student-counselor ratio at the high school level, and only two of those states—Vermont and New Hampshire—met ASCA’s 250:1 student-counselor ratio. At the intra-state level, 47 states and the District of Columbia report that less than 25 percent of their districts meet the ASCA recommendation. Additionally, districts with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged and non-white students have significantly higher student-counselor ratios. 

While the ASCA specifies a student-counselor ratio, state-level mandates are the primary policy lever, they explain. Their findings also offer new insights into the distributional effects of existing policies on the availability of an important yet often overlooked school personnel resource. School counselors are crucial to the success of students’ academic and behavioral outcomes. 

“Taken together, our analyses suggest there are inadequacies and confirm inequities in the distribution among and within states,” the researchers share in the article. “Further, our analyses indicate that mandates matter—to a degree. The average district student-counselor ratio among states without mandates is substantially higher and far more variable than among states with mandated K-12 ratios, and the average intra-state district student-counselor ratio and variation decreases as the comprehensiveness of the mandate increases.” 

DeAngelis, the paper's lead author, is an associate professor in educational leadership at the Warner School. Along with teaching leadership and policy courses, she brings an economics background to her education work, focusing her research on the allocation of resources, both financial and human, in K-12 education. Brent, Earl B. Taylor Professor at the Warner School, brings an education finance background to his research and practice. His research focuses on micro-level resource allocation practices, local revenues and the cost-effective use of education dollars. Both DeAngelis (2021) and Brent (2022) have been named Distinguished Research and Practice Fellows by NEFA. Xu is a doctoral student in the Warner School’s PhD program in education policy.

The Rochester coauthors were presented with the award at the April NEFA annual meeting in Indianapolis.