With many school counselors seeing their duties expand into the realm of ensuring students’ future readiness, the Consortium brought more than 75 counselors together to see where it might provide support.
“Our goal is finding out where regionally there are common needs that we might be able to address with a program in the next school year,” said Program Director Debbie Pixton. “Future readiness has been our primary focus for the better part of a decade, and we’re hoping the resources we’ve amassed in this area will enable us to give counselors some support.”
Attendees at the meeting vented frustrations at having ill-defined, but rapidly expanding roles in their respective districts. The problem stems from the fact that Pennsylvania neither spells out how many counselors schools need, nor does it describe the duties they should be performing, though help may be on the way in the form of legislation introduced in the state House of Representatives that’s intended to bring definition.
“We struggle with our identity a lot,” said Emilia Peiffer, a counselor in East Allegheny School District and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Counselors Association. “Our roles are different in every district and even within the schools in each district.”
One area where counselors find their duties expanding is in supporting students’ career learning. In some districts, for example, middle and high school counselors oversee the collection of artifacts students need to document career learning experiences that satisfy state standards.
Another area is mental health, said Peiffer. Interestingly, she reasoned that some student mental health challenges can be addressed with career learning because it can serve as a vehicle for “getting them excited about the future.”