A former boss once marveled that parents thought June was the month when teachers and counselors were “winding things down.” “We aren’t winding anything down” he told me, “we’re running of a cliff. We go faster and faster, gaining momentum as our feet teach the ground, and then, the last day of school—nothing.”
This year certainly seemed like a perpetual marathon for school counselors, with events that pulled even the most dedicated counselor away from their own work long enough to look around at national trends in awe, grief, or delight. Here are some of the most memorable events that shaped our year.
School safety The string of school shootings and safety issues continued this year, as the start of the year suggested our profession and our students would simply be victims to more cycles of violence, promises to change things, and more violence. That gloomy prognosis was mightily stirred by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, who saw to it that things would have to change. Months later, there is the memory of a DC demonstration; the work of a federal School Safety Commission, and an upcoming bus tour where Parkland survivors will urge young people to register to vote, and bring in a change to Washington. The Santa Fe shooting that came this spring is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go; the Parkland students are determined to help get us there.
Opioid abuse Legislators took notably swift action in many states to try and disrupt the pattern of opioid abuse that is affecting every families, schools, and towns of every size and status. From limiting the size of related prescriptions to increasing state recordkeeping requirements to increasing school budgets to make schools safer, states are eager for more information on how to create teams of support that join the efforts of schools and communities to turn the tide of addiction.
Increased interest in career and technical education The chant of “every student must go to four years of college” was sharply muted this year, as a number of advocates urged schools to make sure all students had a complete understanding of the full array of options open to them after high school. One of the most notable proposals is working its way through the Michigan legislature, where CTE champions are asking for more career counselors—but also asking schools to rethink the way even the most basic skills are taught, all in the name of teaching the skills students will need to develop the habits, attitudes, and skills needed to engage the ever-growing field of CTE. The best news is that many of these skills are the same ones students need to be successful in college, further proof that the CTE/College choices of yesterday are no longer an either/or option.
Increases FAFSA completion A large number of states are reporting significant increased in FAFSA completion, thanks in part to the earlier filing date. At the same time, up to 30 percent of these applications are being flagged for verification, a time consuming process that can discourage low income students from finishing the process. Calls to simplify the FAFSA process continue, as counselors await the rollout of the FAFSA app for smart phones.
College applications get easier A record number of colleges are now letting students self-report their grades and their test scores, making the application process much more inviting. Combined with a growing number of colleges that require no test scores at all, much was done this year to open up college access to a wider audience.