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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Dream Project

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April 12, 2014 at 7:20 PM

Guest: Give counselors the opportunity to develop skills, network together

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Jenée Myers Twitchell

High-school guidance counselors are often misunderstood, unappreciated, and not treated as educational leaders. Like teachers, principals and central office leaders, they ought to be held to high expectations and provided professional development that attends to their ever-changing roles.

Guidance counselors take on all the following challenges: supporting socio-emotional growth, teaching healthy living, parent-teacher-student mediation, discipline enforcement, and college and career readiness, among other duties.

But even in the best master’s degree programs, they rarely get a single day covering the last topic, college and career readiness. As one of my counselor colleagues says: “The sky might fall if there were actually an entire course devoted to college readiness support.”

Yet, by 2020, 70 percent of the jobs in Washington state will require a college degree or career credential. Meanwhile, the number of low-income students, whose first language is not English, or who are ethnic minorities, is rising. These students possess amazing assets. They also face significant challenges. Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — or the new Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA), which is state financial aid for students who can’t file a FAFSA due to immigration status — can be worse than filing taxes.

In these students’ schools, who figures out whether they need to take Spanish if they already speak Amharic fluently? Who makes sure they file the FAFSA so that they can afford to pay for the new Bachelor’s of Applied Science degree at South Seattle College? Increasingly, this is expected of the high-school guidance counselor.

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