Adopt Policies for the Use of School Counselors’ Time
Counselors in Texas public schools spend as much as 40 percent of their time on activities other than guidance and counseling. The state should require school districts to set policies determining how counselors’ time should be used for duties other than counseling and guidance.
Senate Bill 538, approved in May 2001, required the Comptroller’s office to determine student-counselor ratios on Texas elementary, middle and high school campuses; conduct a statewide survey of how school counselors spend their time; and develop recommendations for improvements.
The Comptroller’s office conducted its survey in January 2002. Counselors were asked to track their time for a weeklong period (January 28-February 1, 2002) and to submit suggestions that would improve their effectiveness. More than 4,000 school counselors from across the state responded.
The survey results indicated that most school counselors spend only about 60 percent of their time on counseling activities. A significant portion of their time is devoted to administrative tasks. Counselors acknowledged that they did not expect to be relieved entirely of administrative tasks, since all school staff must be responsible for such duties. Most claimed, however, that excessive administrative duties hamper their effectiveness and their availability to students.
One particular area of concern was the counselors’ role in administering state-required tests. Many counselors believe that coordinating this testing takes too much time away from their counseling activities, and that most or all of these duties should be placed with other staff.
State law outlines the role of the counselor in the school setting. TEA also sets recommended guidelines for discharging counselor duties by type of counseling activity, depending on grade level. The state has not, however, established guidelines determining the amount of non-guidance activities appropriate for counselors.
A. State law should be amended to require each school district to adopt a policy on the appropriate use of counselor time.These policies should be developed within a year for use in the 2004-05 school year. The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) already develops draft policies for school districts. School districts should be able to work with TASB to develop standard policies and templates for this purpose. School districts would remain free to determine how to use their counselors, but their decisions in this matter would be available for everyone’s review, including counselors, campus personnel, teachers and community members.These local policies also should outline district counselors’ role in the administration of state testing, as this was shown to be a significant area of concern in the Comptroller’s survey.
B. Expand TEA’s District Effectiveness and Compliance (DEC) visits to include a review of a district’s local guidance and counseling policy.TEA should request that each school district scheduled for a DEC visit perform a self-assessment on how well it is complying with its local policy on the use of counselor time. TEA personnel conducting the review should analyze counselor time use through interviews of a sample of counselors to determine if the district is meeting its own policy.
Recommendation A would have no effect on state finances. Local school boards should be able to adopt the new policy with existing resources.
TEA staff would conduct further analysis on counselor issues only if the DEC review team found a district failing to comply with its own counselor policy. Thus, Recommendation B could be instituted with existing resources.
 Tex. S.B. 538, 77th Leg., R.S. (2001).
 Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Guiding our Children Toward Success: How Texas School Counselors Spent Their Time (Austin, Texas, August 2002).
 Tex. Educ. Code §33.001.
 Texas Education Agency, A Model Development Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade, Third Edition (Austin, Texas, 1998), p. 42.