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Should MCPS develop a staffing formula for elementary counselors that considers the needs of students considering that MCPS elementary students face problems that students did not have to face ten years ago?

Question#: 6

BUDGET PAGE REFERENCE: CHAPTER 5 - 51

ANSWER:

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides a comprehensive school counseling program that addresses the needs of students from kindergarten–Grade 12 and is aligned with the Code of Maryland Regulation (COMAR) 13.A.05.05.02.  School counseling programs are expected to address three major areas of students’ lives: (1) school success; (2) career development and decision making; and (3) interpersonal relationship skills.  

COMAR does not mandate or provide a recommendation for a school counselor-to-student ratio at any grade level. Currently, the MCPS ratio for counselors in middle and high schools meets the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommendation of 250 students per counselor.  The 130 counselors assigned to elementary schools reflect an overall staffing ratio of one elementary counselor for 536 students.  Most elementary schools have a 1.0 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) counselor position.  The three largest elementary schools have 1.5 FTE counselor positions, and seven of the smallest elementary schools have a 0.5 FTE counselor position.

MCPS is focused on implementing a coordinated student services team (CSST) model in all  schools.  This model includes the school-based counselor, the assigned psychologist and pupil personnel worker, as well as other school staff members.  The FY 2015 budget includes additional staffing (4.0 FTE psychologist positions, 3.0 FTE pupil personnel worker positions, and 7.7 FTE elementary school counselor positions) to implement the CSST model.  These additional positions and those to be hired over the next several years will provide for lower caseloads for employees, improved services to the most vulnerable students, and will enable elementary school counselors to better address the needs of students in their schools.   MCPS plans to fully implement this model and evaluate its impact on student success before deciding whether to adopt a specific staffing formula for elementary school counselors.

Some MCPS students are facing increasing challenges that may require more intensive mental health or therapeutic supports than those which counselors are able to provide.  The more significant therapeutic needs of these students are best met through clinical models, such as Linkages to Learning.  Currently, Linkages to Learning delivers these additional services to students and their families.  It is strong and effective partnerships such as Linkages to Learning that can best provide the resources that students needing more intensive mental health support may require to be successful in school.

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