Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

October 5, 2013

Taylor High School officials report crisis in counseling of teenagers

Local counselors say tight budgets have stretched them thin.

Taylor High School’s lone guidance counselor spent her Thursday helping teens at the school solve problems and prepare for their futures.

“I talked to some kids about personal issues getting in the way of them concentrating in class,” Heather Baltz said.

She helped one student fill out a college application. She helped another create a graduation plan.

Friday she visited Chrysler to try to set up an advanced manufacturing internship for her students.

Soon she will have to get ready for the PSATs that she administers. Then it will be time for the holidays and time for her to organize a canned food drive so the district’s pantry doesn’t run dry for families in need.

“There’s never a down time,” she said. “But it’s OK. Once you see a difference you make in a kid’s life … that’s what you do it for.”

Others are saying it’s not OK. They say the state’s school guidance counselors need some help.

According to the Indiana Youth Institute, the state’s students-to-counselor ratio is one of the worst in the country.

The average school counselor in Indiana serves 539 students — the eighth worst ratio in America.

Those statistics don’t even surprise Baltz.

“I believe it,” she said. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”

And those few counselors are being stretched thin.

According to College Board, counselors also are assigned additional duties such as administrative paper work, the coordination of testing and other clerical tasks that “pull counselors from the college and career-going activities they are uniquely suited to provide their students.”

This lack of personal attention has consequences, Indiana Youth Institute CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz said. In a research review conducted for the state’s new Indiana Career Council, the Indiana Business Research Center reported, “K-12 students receive little career guidance, so they’re unsure which courses and programs to pursue.”

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