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Based on the job responsibilities of counselors, what is a reasonable formula for counselor allocations in elementary schools? How does this compare to elementary school averages in the state and nation? What is the cost of implementing this guideline?

Question#: 17

ANSWER:

There are certified, professional school counselors in each elementary, middle, and high school in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). School counselors are critical partners in the delivery of a high-quality education for all students and contribute significantly to the removal of barriers to learning.

School counselors work in partnership with school staff members to teach skills that are necessary for academic success and promote positive academic, personal, interpersonal, health, and career development for all students. Counselors equip students to embrace their full potential and to strive to achieve their personal and academic aspirations.

In all schools, school counselors:

  • Provide the MCPS Comprehensive School Counseling Program to all students;
  • Provide information to students and families about academic programs and opportunities;
  • Inform families about community resources;
  • Support students in their transition from one school level to another;
  • Communicate with students, staff members, parents/guardians, and community members about available school counseling services;
  • Understand and support the unique needs of the diverse school population;
  • Work proactively with students;
  • Address problems that affect student success in the school setting;
  • Support the school when there is a crisis in the school community; and
  • Consult with staff members and parents/guardians.

There is a recognized difference in the roles and responsibilities of the elementary school counselor versus the secondary school counselor. While secondary school counselors perform many tasks related to scheduling and college and career readiness, the elementary school counselor is able to focus on the social-emotional development of kindergarten through Grade 5 students. Additional tasks of the elementary school counselor include:

  • Goal setting and decision making
  • Understanding oneself, including strengths and needs
  • Individual and small-group counseling, peer education, and peer support
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Consultation and collaboration
  • Parent/guardian education
  • Classroom instruction

As of September 30, 2015, 74,385 kindergarten through Grade 5 elementary school students were enrolled in MCPS. There are 136.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) elementary school counselors employed for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Typically, MCPS allocates a 1.0 FTE counselor to each elementary school, with the following exceptions listed below due to either high enrollment in MCPS’s largest schools or Title I schools that have an enrollment greater than 500 students and a Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) rate of at least 60 percent.

Name of Elementary School School Counselors FTE Student Enrollment
Rachel Carson 1.5 1,013
Gaithersburg* 1.5 802
Georgian Forest* 1.5 574
Harmony Hills* 1.5 730
Highland* 1.5 541
JoAnn Leleck Elementary School at Broad Acres* 1.5 749
Spark M. Matsunaga✝ 2.0 926
New Hampshire Estates* 1.5 517
Rolling Terrace 1.5 905
Sargent Shriver* 1.5 755
South Lake* 1.5 850
Summit Hall* 1.5 627
Weller Road* 1.5 655
Wheaton Woods* 1.5 534

* Indicates a Title 1 school.
✝ Matsunaga created a second FTE counselor position by reducing staffing allocations in another area.

During the 2013–2014 school year, the Board approved a proposal to increase the number of student services staff members to provide comprehensive and preventative social-emotional supports to students. At that time, the recommendation was to increase the number of elementary school counselors by 0.5 FTE at schools with high enrollment (greater than 500 students) and a 60 percent FARMS rate or higher over a five-year period. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, this recommendation was placed on hold after the first year of implementation. No additional counselor positions were added in FY 2016.

Proposed School Counselor Ratio

Based on a review of the averages for counselor-to-student ratios in elementary schools in other school districts, and the different roles and responsibilities of the elementary counselor, the following is a recommendation for staffing of elementary counselors. It will result in a projected average ratio of 465:1 in elementary schools. Once the guideline is implemented we would review and determine if additional adjustments to the guideline are needed. Please note that enrollment data are for kindergarten through Grade 5 students only. Prekindergarten students, with their shorter day and additional resources and supports, were not included for the purposes of elementary counselor allocations.

Counselor Allocation Title I Schools Focus Schools Non-Focus Schools
1.0 FTE ≤ 500 ≤ 600 ≤ 700
1.5 FTE 501–799 601–899 701–1,099
2.0 FTE ≥ 800 ≥ 900 ≥ 1,100

Title 1 Schools

School Enrollment Counselor Allocation FTE Number of Schools
Up to 500 1.0 10
501 to 799 1.5 14
800 and above 2.0 2
Total FTE Increase Based On Current Allocations 3.0

Focus Schools

School Enrollment Counselor Allocation FTE Number of Schools
Up to 600 1.0 27
601 to 899 1.5 16
900 and above 2.0 0
Total FTE Increase Based on Current Allocations 8.0

Non-Focus Schools

School Enrollment Counselor Allocation FTE Number of Schools
Up to 700 1.0 54
701 to 1,099 1.5 10
Total FTE Increase Based on Current Allocations 4.0

Using this model and projected FY 2017 enrollment figures, an additional 15.0 FTE counselors would need to be added to the budget at a cost of $1,092,690. It is important to note that this approach would require the five schools with part time counselors to have a .5 reduction in one of the other three positions. (Schools with a reduction of .5 select between staff development teacher, media specialist, counselor, and reading specialist).

The additional 15.0 FTEs would result in an average elementary ratio for counselors of 465:1. The ratios for elementary school counselors for other large Maryland districts can be found in the table below:

District Average Ratio
Anne Arundel 477
Baltimore City 618
Baltimore County 469
Frederick 500
Harford 497
Howard 573
Prince George’s 481

At this time we do not have data on national averages for elementary schools.

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