The1st meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, July 13, 2009, at<MeetTime> 10:30 AM, at the Anne Hart Raymond Building on the Midway College Campus. Senator Vernie McGaha, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins, Jr., Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters, ex officio; Representatives Linda Belcher, John "Bam" Carney, Hubert Collins, Derrick Graham, Jeff Greer, Kent Stevens, and Wilson Stone.
Guests: John Wilkerson, Kentucky Education Association, Clyde Caudill, SEPS and Kentucky Association of School Administrators, and others.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Laura Blaser, and Marlene Rutherford.
Chair McGaha recognized and welcomed new subcommittee members, Senator Givens and Representatives Belcher, Carney, Graham, Miller, Stevens, and Stone.
A presentation on the role of the school guidance counselor was made by Dr. Natalie Kosine, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville’s College of Education and Human Development, and currently involved in a research study of the characteristics, practices, and effectiveness of school guidance counselors. Joining her was Kevin Smith, Guidance Counselor with the Ashland Independent Schools. Dr. Kosine and Mr. Smith discussed the roles and responsibilities of middle school and high school guidance counselors.
Dr. Kosine indicated that school counselors are losing their positions because there is no data to show the significance of the position especially in the northeastern segment of the country. Those same concerns exist in Kentucky.
Mr. Smith stated that with the Kentucky Education Reform Act the missing component was counseling. Counselors were left out of that legislation and what has resulted is the interpretation of what a school counselor is to do is left up to the administrator and the site-based council. Upon completion of Dr. Kosine’s research, the major result will be to clear what is known as role distortion. He said currently school counseling is left to the building-level administrator and the position is what he/or she wants it to be, there is no mandate from a higher level to superintendents, principals, or counselors.
Dr. Kosine stated that the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) model is not a mandate but is a guide to help school counseling programs. In other states such as Missouri, Washington, and Utah, if there is a properly assisted guidance program the result is students acquire the attitudes, knowledge and skills for effective learning, there is a better student outcome and a lesser dropout rate.
Mr. Smith said that the ASCA national model is the framework for school counseling programs. He said that at this time there are only six Kentucky school districts that are attempting to implement the national model and only one school that has actually reached the pinnacle of the national model which is Assumption High School in Louisville which has received an award for being one of the top programs in the state, it has set the Kentucky standard. The study is not trying to answer what counselors do but how students’ outcome is better having come in contact with a counselor and that outcome verified as a result of the data to be able to make decisions on where the counseling program would go in the on-coming years.
Dr. Kosine indicated that caseloads are high for counselors averaging 436 students per counselor whereas it should be around 250 students per counselor. With the high ratio it is difficult for counselors to be effective. Dr. Kosine provided the committee an article she wrote for the Kentucky School Council Association newsletter on what is occurring across the country. Research reflects that when the ratio decreases there is better student outcome because of more contact with the students and counselors are able to use the data to help guide students academically or for career guidance.
Dr. Kosine noted that familiarity with the ASCA model and Kentucky school counselor standards and the schools implementation of the model across the state there are very few schools that have implemented the model, only 7% are fully implemented, 37% have partially implemented the model, 15% in the beginning stages, 20% have no started implementation, and 21% have indicated that they do not plan to implement the model which is of concern because the effectiveness affect student outcome.
The school counseling program review survey evaluates school counselors’ perceptions of the counseling program in meeting the needs of the school and students. The school counseling program implementation survey evaluates how the school counseling program is implemented based on the ASCA model standards. Many counselors have indicated that do not know what the goals of their program are and do not feel that their job duties are well defined. The characteristics of the position differ from school to school, building to building, and district to district.
Representative Graham asked how information was broken down for grades that were combined with high school grades rather than grades 9-12 you have grades 7-12. Dr. Kosine indicated that in gathering data the survey does ask what grades they are surveying. Representative Graham also asked of those schools that have implemented the national model how long it took to see the advantages of the program. Mr. Smith stated that the State of Oklahoma implemented the model and its program was up and running in three years and fully complete in the fourth year and that it involves a great deal of detail.
Representative Collins pointed out that many times the students that need help do not receive the counseling; that if a student asks for help they receive it but in many schools in Kentucky counselors are not able to perform counseling duties because of the administrative paperwork, the students need one-on-one counseling.
Representative Carney asked if the survey asked for academic or guidance counselors stating that the demographics of Kentucky are different from those of Utah or Massachusetts and that Missouri would be more in line with Kentucky and that the message to schools should be that this program is not a mandate but a guide.
Mr. Smith indicated that the national study of current status of state school counseling models ranks Kentucky as “progressing” on school counseling. The Innovative Learning Program (ILP) is one of the strongest programs and Kentucky is a model for it beginning at Grade 6 through graduation with the use of the resume making tool. Kentucky has implemented a written model in 2003-04 looking at the ASCA national guidelines along with the components being used within KERA at that time, this will need to be revised as worked is done on SB 1 and the schools will have to adapt what is being used as a written tool.
Representative Belcher stated that it was important to reach students early for developing early skills. She asked how many school districts in Kentucky have counselors in K-12. Mr. Smith deferred that question to the Department of Education however he did indicated there are approximately 1,265 functioning school counselors in Kentucky. Representative Belcher said that personnel need to have appropriate position duties because they get tied up with doing other things so much of the time.
Mr. Smith said the association would like to get the university counseling education programs to accept this concept. Many times the people teaching in the school counseling programs are functioning from the mental health realm versus the school counseling. The system needs people to be taught how to be school counselors rather than mental health counselors. One of the key components of discussion is the national ratio of 250 students per counselor and what the school counselor’s association is aiming for. When there are 450 students per counselor it tells you that there are not enough counselors and that the positions are not performing duties they are capable of doing. Counselors in Kentucky are one of the greatest untapped resources. When talking about dropout prevention, success in the first year of college, graduation rates, and lessening the retention rate and school attendance the school counselor is key in each of those areas.
Representative Stevens indicated that having been a school principal he knew first hand that counselors over time end up performing many additional duties other than counseling students and that this is the crux of the problem and that each school is different.
Senator Blevins asked if there was a correlation of the test scores between students who have computers in their homes and those who do not and noted that Connect Kentucky was making available computers in homes in his district.
Representative Carney stated that students are better served by counseling and providing guidance in certain areas including academic projects as well as career choices. He asked what the Legislature could do to cause more guidance counselors to be focused on counseling students.
Mr. Smith indicated one of the actions that the committee could take which would not result in any financial pain would be to offer a memorandum of support of the ASCA national model for school counseling programs in Kentucky schools even though it would still be a site-based decision. If site-based councils, building-level administrators, and district level managers were working together with the understanding that the Legislature, Department of Education, and the Vocational Technical Education schools endorse the ASCA national model knowing that the outcome will be better for all students would be a monumental step. It would not be a mandate and would need no funding.
Senator Westwood stated that he had presented a career development bill that would require a career coach for students and that would be their only job and asked Mr. Smith’s thoughts on such a piece of legislation.
Mr. Smith stated that the career process is just that, a process. The seed of what a child wants to be when they “grow up” needs to be planted early and nurtured to enable a student to understand what they need to be processing to make choices upon graduation. Mr. Smith indicated that career coaches are controversial, and there are discussions on the national level, but that career coaching would have success.
Senator Blevins moved that the committee send a letter to administrators endorsing the ASCA national model for school counseling programs. Chair McGaha indicated that such a motion at this time was inappropriate, that it would be more appropriate that action be deferred in order that members could research the program and that a motion could be entertained at a later time. Senator Blevins agreed and withdrew his motion.
As a result of discussion and comments, Chair McGaha asked Dr. Kosine to define administrative duties that counselors are having to perform. Dr. Kosine those duties would involve behavior interventions, discipline, consulting and attending various meetings.
Chair McGaha indicated that the committee would be very interested in Dr. Kosine coming back before the committee to update it on further findings on her research.
The meeting adjourned at about 11:35 a.m.