Missing Elements

Survey finds that high school counselors think their schools are not succeeding in key areas to promote college readiness and attendance.

November 15, 2011

When it comes to getting students into college (and prepared to succeed there), school counselors have a unique vantage point -- seeing firsthand the factors that hinder their students from moving forward. A national survey of counselors, being released today by the College Board, finds that these counselors generally think their schools are not succeeding in the areas that the counselors believe are most important to promote student advancement.

The counselors were given a list of a series of roles for their schools in preparing students for college, and asked how important they are and how well their schools are doing in these roles. In function after function that the counselors found important -- such as helping students understand the kind of preparation they would need for colleges and careers, or promoting good understanding of the college application process -- relatively few found their schools to be doing well in them.

Roles and Effectiveness of Schools in Promoting College Readiness and Attendance

Role % Who Believe Role is Important % Who Say Schools Are Successful in Role
Connecting college and career choices to academic preparation 72% 30%
Connecting students to resources to pay for college 64% 24%
Promoting a rigorous academic program 71% 34%
Promoting an early understanding of the application and admissions process 72% 31%
Providing students with exposure to a range of extracurricular activities 58% 32%
Providing information about how to afford going to college 68% 36%
Promoting the use of assessments of college and career readiness 63% 34%
Building a "college going culture" 65% 37%

The survey was designed to highlight the role of college counseling in promoting the goal of encouraging more students to enroll in college, and to be prepared well enough that they can succeed.

Asked how they would reallocate their time, if their jobs were to be focused on student success, the counselors said that they need more time for helping students navigate the application and financial aid process, and for building a culture in which everyone thinks about college. The main impediment to that time shift appears to be administrative tasks. Among counselors, 39 percent said that they spend far too much time on such work, and another 28 percent said that they spend somewhat too much time on it.

Given the current emphasis nationally on accountability, the survey also asked whether it was appropriate to judge high school counselors on certain criteria related to various educational goals. Generally, the counselors were skeptical of being evaluated based on outcomes measures, but were more open to the idea when it related to high school measures than college-related measures.

Counselors' Views on Fairness of Evaluating Them on Certain Criteria

Factor Fair Somewhat Fair Not Fair
Transcript audits of college readiness 29% 33% 38%
College-prep course completion 24% 37% 39%
Student access to AP, similar courses 22% 37% 41%
High school graduation rates 19% 38% 43%
College application rates 18% 39% 43%
College acceptance rates 13% 33% 54%
Aid application completion rates 13% 27% 60%



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