Mark Veronica is the president of the High School Counselors Association of Western New York and has been a school counselor for the past 22 years. The recommended student to counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor and the ideal caseload is 100 students, according to Veronica.
"In fact, the National Average of students per school counselor is 430. That’s like walking into an auditorium filled with students and saying here’s your caseload and get to know them all at an individual level," Veronica said.
He says the New York State average is about 350 students per counselor, which is still above the recommended ratio. So, what exactly does a school counselor do?
"A variety of topics including mental health things, educational counseling and academic things and then career and college planning as well," he said.
The high ratio of students to counselors can be a challenge when trying to help students. Veronica says research shows that if there’s a better ratio then there are better outcomes for students.
"So schools that have a smaller caseload per counselor have higher attendance rates, they have better test scores, they’ve got better graduation rates, they have better college outcomes," he said.
Not only does a higher caseload impact students, it also impacts the counselors.
"It’s stressful and you know it’s a stressful position on a good day and there’s so many students and you’re being pulled out in different directions and different expectations like we talked about,” Veronica said. “Plus you know just the content of the work itself can be emotionally draining.”
He says being a counselor now is a more stressful job than it used to be and, with less pay, people might also reconsider entering the field.
Other findings from the audit include 50% of school districts analyzed do not meet the recommended ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students. Nineteen school districts reported having no mental health professional staff at all.