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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 5, Issue 3, Topic: Elementary and Secondary Education
High School Guidance Counseling
By: Basmat Parsad, Debbie Alexander, Elizabeth Farris, and Lisa Hudson
 
This article was originally published as the Executive Summary of the E.D. Tabs report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS) and a supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B).
 
 

Introduction

Recent literature on school counseling has focused on the need for new directions for school counseling and redefined roles for school counselors (Baker 1996; Fitch, Newby, and Ballestero 2001; Perusse, Goodnough, and Noel 2001; Schmidt 1999). However, since the 1984 supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B),1 no national data have been collected to describe guidance counseling programs and activities. To help address this lack of current information, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducted a survey on high school guidance counseling in spring 2002 for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. The survey, conducted through the NCES Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), provides a description of public high school guidance programs, activities, and staff in 2002.2


Key Findings

This E.D. Tabs report summarizes findings for all public high schools in the 2002 FRSS survey and the 1984 supplement to HS&B. Findings for schools in the FRSS survey are also presented by the following school characteristics: enrollment size, locale, percentage of college-bound students, and number of vocational courses offered per 100 students.3 This summary presents highlights of findings for all public high schools and compares results from the FRSS survey and the supplement to HS&B concerning program goals, written plans, and selected guidance activities.

Program goals and written plans

Of the four program goals examined in the 2002 FRSS survey, helping students with their academic achievement in high school was the most emphasized goal of high school guidance programs; 48 percent of all public high schools emphasized this goal the most (table A). Fewer schools reported that the most emphasized goal of their guidance programs was helping students plan and prepare for post-secondary schooling (26 percent) or helping students with personal growth and development (17 percent). Schools were least likely to report that the most emphasized goal of their guidance programs was helping students plan and prepare for their work roles after high school (8 percent). Between 1984 and 2002, the proportion of public high schools indicating that helping students with their academic achievement in high school was the most emphasized guidance goal increased from 35 percent to 48 percent.

Fifty-six percent of public high schools in 1984 and 61 per-cent of public high schools in 2002 had written plans for their guidance programs. One-half (50 percent) of all public high schools had guidance plans with written standards in 2002.4


Table A. Percentage distribution of public high schools indicating the extent to which their guidance programs emphasize selected goals: 1984 and 2002
Goal Most emphasis Second most emphasis Third most emphasis Fourth most emphasis
2002
Help students plan and prepare for their work roles after high school 8 12 30 51
Help students with personal growth and development 17 21 31 31
Help students plan and prepare for postsecondary schooling 26 39 26 9
Help students with their academic achievement in high school 48 29 14 9
1984
Help students plan and prepare for their work roles after high school 11 17 33 39
Help students with personal growth and development 27 28 16 29
Help students plan and prepare for postsecondary schooling 27 32 29 12
Help students with their academic achievement in high school 35 23 22 20

NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B), “Administrator and Teacher Survey,” 1984; Fast Response Survey System, “High School Guidance Counseling: 2001,” FRSS 80, 2002. (Originally published as table 1 on p. 20 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


School programs and features

The FRSS survey gathered information about six school programs and features. Three of the six were found in a majority of public high schools: required state academic assessment for high school graduation (70 percent), school-to-work programs (65 percent), and a team approach to career development (56 percent). Fewer schools had a curriculum aligned around career clusters/paths (45 per-cent) or block scheduling (42 percent). The schools were least likely to have small learning communities such as houses or academies (15 percent). Public high schools also reported their perceptions of the overall effect of the programs or features on their ability to deliver guidance services; for every school program or feature examined, the schools reported mostly positive effects more often than no effects or mostly negative effects.

Selected guidance activities: Availability and student participation

The 2002 FRSS survey asked about 15 of the 16 guidance activities examined in the 1984 supplement to HS&B.5 In both surveys, schools indicated whether each activity was available to students and the percentage of students in grades 11 and 12 who participated in the activity.

Among the guidance activities examined in the survey, the following were the most commonly available at public high schools in 2002: use of college catalogs, individual counseling sessions, use of computerized career information sources, testing and having tests interpreted for career planning purposes, and use of noncomputerized career information sources. These activities were offered by 92 to 100 percent of the schools (table B). In addition, between 73 percent and 87 percent offered occupational information units in subject-matter courses, exploratory work experience programs, career days/nights, vocationally oriented assemblies and speakers in class, job-site tours, tours of postsecondary institutions, job shadowing, group guidance/counseling sessions, and training in job seeking skills. School courses in career decisionmaking were the least available activity, although this activity was available in 57 percent of all public high schools. Between 1984 and 2002, the proportion of schools offering a guidance activity declined for 3 of the 15 activities-career days/nights, tours of postsecondary institutions, and training in job seeking skills. During this time period, no differences were detected in the proportion of schools indicating that the remaining guidance activities were available.

Student participation (regardless of whether an activity is offered) provides a second indicator of the prevalence of guidance activities.6 The guidance activity in which public high school students participated most often in 2002 was individual counseling sessions (78 percent of students; table C). Fewer students (44 to 61 percent) participated in 8 of the remaining 14 activities-career days/nights, vocationally oriented assemblies and speakers in class, testing and having tests interpreted for career planning purposes, group guidance/counseling sessions, occupational information units in subject-matter courses, the use of noncomputerized career information sources, the use of computerized career information sources, and the use of college catalogs. The activity in which students participated least often was job shadowing (17 percent).

As in 2002, the activity in which students participated most often in 1984 was individual counseling sessions (79 per-cent), and the activity in which they participated least often was job shadowing (5 percent; table C). Between 1984 and 2002, the proportion of students who participated in a guidance activity increased for 5 of the 15 activities: occupational information units in subject-matter courses, exploratory work experience programs, job-site tours, job shadowing, and the use of computerized career information sources. No significant differences were detected between these years in the proportion of students who participated in the remaining guidance activities.


Table B. Percent of public high schools indicating that various guidance activities are available at the school: 1984 and 2002
Activity 1984 2002
School courses in career decisionmaking 69 57
Occupational information units in subject-matter courses 88 79
Exploratory work experience programs (for example, co-op, work study, internship) 87 85
Career days/nights 90 73
Vocationally oriented assemblies and speakers in class 92 87
Job-site tours or visits (field trips) 87 78
Tours of postsecondary institutions 93 79
Job shadowing (extended observations of a worker) 72 74
Testing and having tests interpreted for career planning purposes (for example, interest inventories, vocational aptitude tests) 92 93
Individual counseling sessions 100 98
Group guidance/counseling sessions 93 85
Training in job seeking skills 91 80
Use of noncomputerized career information sources 98 92
Use of computerized career information sources 89 96
Use of college catalogs 100 1001

1Rounds to 100 percent for presentation in table.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B), “Administrator and Teacher Survey,” 1984; Fast Response Survey System, “High School Guidance Counseling: 2001,” FRSS 80, 2002. (Originally published as table 6 on p. 36 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


Table C. Percent of public high school students who participate in various activities at least once during the time period beginning when they start 11th grade and ending when they leave high school: 1984 and 2002
Activity 1984 2002
School courses in career decisionmaking 22 27
Occupational information units in subject-matter courses 37 49
Exploratory work experience programs (for example, co-op, work study, internship) 15 23
Career days/nights 39 45
Vocationally oriented assemblies and speakers in class 44 44
Job-site tours or visits (field trips) 17 22
Tours of postsecondary institutions 22 26
Job shadowing (extended observations of a worker) 5 17
Testing and having tests interpreted for career planning purposes (for example, interest inventories, vocational aptitude tests) 53 56
Individual counseling sessions 79 78
Group guidance/counseling sessions 55 61
Training in job seeking skills 32 36
Use of noncomputerized career information sources 50 47
Use of computerized career information sources 27 57
Use of college catalogs 51 55

NOTE: Percentages are based on information provided by public high schools about their students’ participation in each activity. Student participation in a guidance activity is reported for all public high schools, regardless of whether the activity was offered by the school. Thus, for these analyses, schools that did not offer an activity were coded as having zero students participating in that activity. In the 1984 supplement to HS&B and the 2002 FRSS survey, schools reported the percentage of 11th- and 12th-grade students who participated in each of the 15 guidance activities. This information was used with enrollment data for grades 11 and 12 to calculate the number of students who participated in an activity at each public high school, and the percentage across all public high schools. Enrollment data for the 2002 FRSS survey items were obtained from the 1999–2000 Common Core of Data (CCD) School Universe file, and enrollment data for the 1984 supplement to HS&B items were taken from the 1980 HS&B data. Thus, national estimates for the percentage of 11th- and 12th-grade students who participated in an activity were calculated by dividing the sum of 11th- and 12th-grade students who participated in the activity by the sum of students enrolled in those grades.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B), “Administrator and Teacher Survey,” 1984; Fast Response Survey System, “High School Guidance Counseling: 2001,” FRSS 80, 2002. (Originally published as table 8 on p. 44 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


Other school activities

In the FRSS survey, public high schools were asked about four school activities that had not been included in the 1984 supplement to HS&B: regularly scheduled group guidance sessions led by teachers or other school staff, a written career plan, a senior project based on the student's career of interest, and the selection of a career major or path to guide the student's selection of courses. Schools indicated whether each activity was available and whether it was required of all, some, or no students.

In 2002, 77 percent of public high schools indicated that selection of a career major or path was available, and 50 percent of all public high schools required all students to participate in the activity. Sixty-four percent of public high schools indicated that written career plans were available, and 47 percent required all students to participate in the activity. Sixty-three percent of public high schools reported that regularly scheduled group guidance sessions led by teachers or other school staff were available, and 35 percent required all students to participate in the activity. Finally, 31 percent of public high schools reported that senior proj-ects based on the student's career of interest were available, and 14 percent required all students to participate in that activity.

Guidance staff

In the 2002 FRSS survey, public high schools reported the number of full- and part-time guidance counselors assigned to high school students, the number of counselors who were certified, the number of guidance paraprofessionals, and the percentage of time that the school's guidance counselors spent delivering selected services to high school students during the school year. Schools also indicated whether their state or school district provided in-service training or professional development in selected topics for high school guidance counselors during the 12 months preceding the survey. In addition, the survey respondent (typically a lead guidance counselor) was asked to report the number of hours he or she spent on professional development in each topic.

In 2002, about 49,500 guidance staff (counselors and paraprofessionals) were assigned to public high school students; this represents an average of 249 students for every guidance staff member and 284 students for every guidance counselor, including full- and part-time counselors.7 The ratio of high school students to full-time guidance counselors was 315:1. Most guidance counselors (90 percent) were employed full time, and most (94 per-cent) were certified, with full-time counselors being more likely than part-time counselors to be certified (96 vs. 79 percent).

Time spent delivering services. The two listed services at which guidance counselors spent the most time in 2002 were the choice and scheduling of high school courses, and postsecondary education admissions and selections; 49 percent of public high schools reported that more than 20 percent of their guidance staff’s time was spent on the choice and scheduling of courses, and 43 percent indicated that more than 20 percent of their guidance staff’s time was spent on postsecondary education admissions and selections. The third activity at which guidance counselors spent the most time was students’ attendance, discipline, and other school and personal problems; one-third of public high schools reported that more than 20 percent of their guidance staff’s time was spent on this activity. Fewer public high schools (13 to 19 percent) indicated that more than 20 percent of their guidance staff’s time was spent on academic testing, occupational choice and career planning, and other guidance activities. Schools were least likely to report that more than 20 percent of their guidance staff’s time was spent on job placement and employability skill development (2 percent) and on nonguidance activities such as hall or lunch duty, substitute teaching, and bus duty (5 percent).

Professional development for guidance counselors. About two-thirds (64 percent) of all public high schools indicated that their state or school district provided professional development on academic curriculum standards/frameworks or assessments for guidance counselors during the 12 months preceding the survey. Fewer schools (51 to 53 percent) reported the availability of professional development on career guidance standards/frameworks/models, how to interpret test scores and assess student achievement, and how to work with students with special needs. Of the five listed topics, the least available was training on occupational/vocational curriculum standards/frameworks or assessments (43 percent). Thirty-eight to 51 percent of respondents spent 4 or fewer hours, or the equivalent of one-half of a day or less, on professional development for a listed topic over the 12 months preceding the survey. The proportion of respondents who spent more than 8 hours on professional development for a listed topic during the preceding 12 months ranged from 18 percent for training on how to interpret test scores and assess student achievement to 30 percent for training on state or local career guidance standards/ frameworks/models and for training on state or local academic curriculum standards/frameworks or assessments.

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References

Baker, S.B. (1996). School Counseling for the Twenty-First Century. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Fitch, T.J., Newby, E., and Ballestero, V. (2001). Future School Administrators' Perceptions of the School Counselor's Role. Counselor Education and Supervision, 41(2): 88-99.

Perusse, R., Goodnough, G.E., and Noel, C.J. (2001). A National Survey of School Counselor Preparation Programs: Screening Methods, Faculty Experiences, Curricular Content, and Fieldwork Requirements. Counselor Education and Supervision, 40(4): 252-262.

Schmidt, J.J. (1999). Counseling in Schools: Essential Services and Comprehensive Programs. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Snyder, T. (2001). Digest of Education Statistics, 2000 (NCES 2001-034). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Footnotes

1 The 1984 supplement to HS&B surveyed staff in about half of the original sample of 1,015 schools that participated in the base-year (1980) HS&B. The supplemental survey collected data on high school guidance counseling activities in 1984.

2 To retain comparability with the 1984 survey, this study used a working definition of high schools as schools with a highest grade of 11 or 12. Most (90 percent) of the respondents were guidance counselors, 7 percent were principals, and 3 percent were some other staff member (see appendix A, methodology, in the full report for details on the sample and definitions).

3 The tables in the report also summarize findings for public high schools by region of the country, minority enrollment, and access to an area or regional vocational school.

4 Plans for guidance programs include program description, program schedule, staff roles and responsibilities, program resources, budget, and management schedule. Standards are statements that provide a description of what students should know and be able to do at the highest level of expectation.

5 "Simulations" was not included in the 2002 FRSS survey because pretesting suggested that this activity is hardly ever used in schools and respondents might have difficulty answering the question.

6 For these analyses, schools that did not offer an activity were coded as having zero students participating in that activity.

7 It is important to note that the number of counselors and the student-counselor ratios from the FRSS survey are not strictly comparable to estimates from the Common Core of Data (CCD). The CCD estimates are based on a definition of secondary schools as schools comprising any span of grades beginning with the next grade following an elementary or middle school (usually 7, 8, or 9) and ending with or below grade 12 (Snyder 2001). In contrast, the 2002 FRSS study defined secondary schools as schools with a highest grade of 11 or 12. Thus, the CCD definition encompasses a broader range of schools than does the FRSS definition. Because the CCD data are reported at the district level rather than the school level (i.e., the counts reflect all guidance counselors in the district assigned to secondary grades regardless of whether the school is a middle school, a senior high school, or a combined school), the CCD data cannot be disaggregated to reflect a definition of secondary schools that is comparable to the definition used by the FRSS study.

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Data sources: The NCES Fast Response Survey System, "High School Guidance Counseling: 2001," FRSS 80, 2002; and a supplement to the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study (HS&B), "Administrator and Teacher Survey," 1984.

For technical information, see the complete report:

Parsad, B., Alexander, D., Farris, E., and Hudson, L. (2003). High School Guidance Counseling (NCES 2003-015).

Author affiliations: B. Parsad, D. Alexander, and E. Farris, Westat; L. Hudson, NCES.

For questions about content, contact Peter Tice.

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2003-015), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827) or visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).


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