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2012 National Survey of School Counselors

Counselors vs. Administrators

EfficacyCounselors and administrators have a shared vision of schools.

In 2011, 96% of counselors agreed that the mission of schools should be “to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have equal access to a high-quality education."


In 2012, 95% of administrators agreed that the mission of schools should be “to ensure that all students, regardless of background, have equal access to a high-quality education."


Since beginning their counseling careers, 49% of counselors have received additional training in “closing the achievement gap."


of administrators are willing to commit time and resources for counselors to receive additional training around “closing the achievement gap."


In 2011, 59% of high school counselors said they believe it is fair to use “completion of college prep sequence of courses” as a measure to assess their effectiveness.


In 2012, 78% of high school administrators said they believe it is fair to use “completion of college prep sequence of courses” as a measure to assess counselor effectiveness.


of counselors say they do not have sufficient resources to support greater adoption of college and career readiness activities related to the eight components.


of administrators agree with counselors that they do not have sufficient resources to support greater adaptation of college and career readiness activities related to the eight components.

This report, True North: Charting the Course to College and Career Readiness, demonstrates that school counselors and their administrators share a vision for their schools and agree on a path to realize it. In the past, the more than 130,000 school counselors nationally have struggled to define their profession. Now, faced with an incontrovertible need to improve student achievement, school counseling is no longer at a crossroads. The 2012 National Survey of School Counselors, supported by a supplemental survey of school administrators, provided powerful evidence that school counselors and their administrators know true north — and they are poised to chart the course of their students’ college and career success.

Read about the survey's background

Paths forward

The 2012 survey provided additional insights related to the potential of counselors to accelerate student achievement. In light of this new information, we provide below policy ideas as supplements to the recommendations we provided in 2011:

Act Now Through Existing Training and Tools for College and Career Readiness

The findings from the 2012 survey show that counselors are ready to lead on advancing college and career readiness — and their administrators agree. From the state house to the schoolhouse, education leaders (including counselors themselves) do not have to wait for policy changes to strengthen this work — they are ready to act now to ensure that counselors can provide students the resources they need to be successful. The National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) provides training and tools for this work, including NOSCA’s Eight Components of College and Career Readiness Counseling. These components and supporting tools are a means of institutionalizing practices and processes that will ensure that all students gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully transition from high school to college or career of their choice. Free tools are available online.

Include Counselors as Integral Partners in Education Policy

A range of laws, policies and codes that are set by federal, state and local governments affect school counselors and counseling programs. Many others, however, limit or exclude counselors. Education policies that do not intentionally engage these 130,000 education professionals are failing our students. Policies at the school, district, state and federal levels should recognize counselors as educators and include counselors as key players in education reform.

Include Counselors in Common Core Implementation

Common Core State Standards aim to raise standards for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. Because of the focus on college readiness, the Common Core is tightly linked to the work of counselors, yet school counselors have been largely absent from implementation discussions. Moving forward, counselors must be included as leaders in the Common Core implementation discussion at the school, district and state levels. As new training materials are created for teachers, they should be created for counselors as well.

Provide Counselors, Teachers and Administrators Preservice and In-service Training that Aligns Counselors’ Work to Students’ College and Career Readiness

For both preservice (graduate school) and in-service (professional development) training for counselors, the focus should move toward systemic action. This training should emphasize counselors’ schoolwide work with parents, families and the community, in addition to individual and small-group counseling. Graduate schools can take specific steps in curriculum and fieldwork performance measures to ensure professional school counselors are prepared to implement a comprehensive college and career readiness counseling program that links counselors’ work with school and district goals. Further, college and career student outcome measures should also be added in preservice program requirements as part of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) standards. As in graduate school, in-service training for counselors should include a focus on counselors’ systemic work, their contributions to schoolwide improvement, and their role in college and career readiness for their students. Likewise, interdisciplinary training for counselors, teachers, administrators, and other school and district personnel can help these educators work as highly effective teams to meet school and district goals.

Align Counselor Accountability Measures with Student, School and District Goals

The 2012 survey showed that what gets measured gets done. Counselors who are held accountable for college-going activities are more likely to have students who go to college, across school demographics. We have examples of pilot accountability systems in place that are driving counselor effectiveness and student achievement, including those featured in the case studies of this report. Counselors, with school, district and state education leaders, should work together to align systems of reporting and accountability to student, school and district goals. These systems should be driven by and responsive to data that link students’ secondary achievement to postsecondary success.

Accelerate FAFSA Completion for Students

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is among the key tools for providing qualified students the financial support needed to achieve postsecondary goals, yet each year at least 1.7 million students do not file the FAFSA because they incorrectly believe they are ineligible. Every public and private high school in America can now use the FAFSA as an independently calculated data point to determine what percentage of students have completed this form and, through the FAFSA completion project, many schools and districts can have student-level data on FAFSA completion. Schools and districts can act on these data and accelerate their efforts to provide students the financial resources they need. Initiatives that promote FAFSA completion, particularly through family engagement in the process, should be replicated and scaled — and counselors can be key to this success. The U.S. Department of Education FAFSA completion project should be expanded so that more counselors have access to student-specific data to drive completion rates. Partnerships, like that between the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), should be replicated to provide data on FAFSA completion that allow for early intervention.

Support Collaboration Among Counselors, Teachers and Community Groups

Although counselors are uniquely prepared to guide students on the path to college and careers, they cannot do this work in isolation — particularly at a time of constrained resources. Collaboration within schools and with out-of-school programs should be encouraged and strengthened. Teachers and administrators must be informed of counselors’ unique role in schools and fully enrolled in counselors’ work. They can build intentional “college-ready” teams of educators to support their students’ success. Counselors can also build collaborative efforts with out-of-school and in-school service providers, college access groups, as well as across institutions to bolster resources for their students throughout the year. Counselors and their schools have the opportunity to redefine the counselor’s role as a facilitator of resources who can put the systems in place to support all students.