The importance of school counselors

20 Apr

An article in the always interesting Pacific Standard makes a case for value of school counselors:

“Hiring just one additional school counselor in an average American school could have about a third of the effect of recruiting all the school’s teachers from a pool of candidates in the top 15 percent of their profession, according to a new analysis. That’s also about the effect you’d expect from lowering class sizes by adding two teachers to a school of around 500—either way, not too shabby.”

Here is the abstract from the paper:

“We exploit within-school variation in counselors and find that one additional counselor reduces student misbehavior and increases boys’ academic achievement by over one percentile point. These effects compare favorably with those of increased teacher quality and smaller class sizes.”

This work is interesting and is worth thinking about in a time when schools are cutting back on support staff. However, a few caveats are in order. First, this is correlational research and can not demonstrate cause and effect. Second, while researchers confidently claim that have controlled for confounding variables, there are reasons to doubt them, and, finally, while teachers are of course important, the claim that they are responsible for such a large variance in student scores is disputed.


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