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Student Counsel

Shelly Landry, Minneapolis Public Schools’ lead counselor and former president of the Minnesota Counselors Association, swears that Naviance has transformed the district’s guidance department, which manages nearly 34,570 K12 students. Landry says that the program, an online tool for tracking students’ progress in preparing for college, has improved the rate of graduates headed to college.

A new battle cry of American education seems to be college and career readiness. School professionals are being urged to graduate students who can be successful in college and ready for a career. In a speech before Congress in 2009, President Obama raised the bar when he declared that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.”

September is an incredible time to be a school counselor. The month seems to fly by as we work at a frenetic pace to review and adjust students' academic programs, assist students who are transitioning into a new school, and support students and families as they acclimate to a new school year. For high school counselors, we have the added responsibilities related to college admissions planning for incoming seniors.

At a recent conference that I attended, I learned quite a bit about the development and implementation of online courses in public schools. However, I left the workshop feeling a bit discouraged, even disgusted. Not with regard to online learning; in fact, I am cautiously optimistic that online coursework will benefit students in many different ways. But the more I heard, the more I felt disillusioned.

Throughout my career as a counselor, many parents and students have shared positive counseling experiences with me. They have often used words like "helpful," "caring," "committed" and "encouraging." But to date, I have never heard the word "creative" used to describe me or any other school counselor. As the job of the counselor has become more complex and the number of opportunities available to students has continued to expand, however, counselors have often been required to demonstrate a great deal of creativity in their work with students and their families.

Last spring, Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization, released a report on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, entitled "Can I Get a Little Advice Here?" presented the results of a survey administered to 600 adults from 22 to 30 who had at least begun some form of higher education. The survey asked the respondents to reflect on the quality of their interactions with their high school counselors.