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Guidance Counselors Deserve Recognition

With so much attention paid to the role of teachers, it's easy to forget the importance of guidance counselors ("Never underestimate a guidance counselor's power," New York Daily News, Jan. 8, 2018).  For disadvantaged students in particular, they often are the only adults who are successful in establishing a bond.

Not only are they responsible for making sure students are on the road to graduation, but they are expected to help students make the right personal choices.  That's almost impossible to do when they are overloaded.  At the high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District where I taught for 28 years, there were 10 counselors for almost 3,000 students.  I don't see how they could spend more than a few minutes with each one.

As a result, it's understandable that they sometimes steer students to apply to four-year colleges even though they would have been better served by enrolling in a community college.  I say that because of the failure of so many students to become frustrated and drop out before receiving a degree.  I continue to believe that vocational education should be treated as a viable option.  The ability to match a student's aptitude with a curriculum is indispensable.

The latest argument for vocational education came from Mike Rowe of the Dirty Jobs show on the Discovery Channel. ("Mike Rowe slams 'crazy' idea every student must go to college to get a good-paying job," Washington Times, Jan. 24).  As he correctly pointed out, there are many meaningful jobs, some offering six-figure incomes.  And let's not forget that qualifying for such jobs does not require assuming onerous student debt.  I wish all counselors would make that clearer.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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