Under existing law, governing boards of school districts provide educational counseling programs administered by credentialed counselors. Educational counseling includes academic, career, vocational counseling.
Wiggins says her bill is enabling legislation which updates the definition of a “school counselor” and also encourages the use of contemporary standards and best practices – such as career technical education, and multiple pathways – in professional development for school counselors. She said her legislation is needed because state laws pertaining to education counseling statutes have not been updated since 1987.
“In order to address student needs, it is imperative that we strengthen and improve counseling programs,” Wiggins said. “Professional school counselors play a critical role in academic and career planning, but the current legal definition of a school counselor no longer reflects standards and practices that are central to the profession and critical to supporting student achievement. Consequently, this outdated definition fails to provide guidance to administrators, educators, and even school counselors on successful methods for providing comprehensive support to students.”
The critical role of school counselors was recognized in 2006, when the Middle and High School Supplemental Counselor Program (MHHSCP) was established to address the state’s staggering shortage of school counselors, where a student-to-counselor ratio of 930-to-1 – the worst in the nation – put students at an extreme disadvantage in planning for success.
Measurable improvements were evident following the first year of program implementation, including increases in the number of students that sought academic and career technical post-secondary education following the 12th grade. However, school counselor focus groups and professional development committees continue to indicate that a lack of clarity in the law with regard to the role of the school counselor impedes educators’ capacity to execute the full intent of the MHSSCP.
The majority of the schools throughout California are already providing quality counseling services under the MHSSCP. However, SB 272 would ensure that all schools provide these same counseling services in order for all students to receive equitable and effective services.
Loretta Whitson, executive director for the California Association of School Counselors (CASC), stated that “In this year of difficult budget decisions, the California Association of School Counselors believe that school counselors need to be supported in providing career and college counseling to students so that when students leave high school, they will have wisely chosen the most appropriate post-secondary education plan that matches their skills, aptitudes and their interest to a future career.”
The bill, which is sponsored by CSAC, now heads to the Assembly for consideration. Other supporters include the California Association of Leaders for Career Preparation, California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs, California League of Middle Schools and the Western Association for College Admission Counseling.
Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, comprised of portions or all of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.