- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas’ top education official says he fears that school counselor positions in the state have become too focused on administrative tasks.

Education commissioner Randy Watson addressed more than 350 school counselors from across the state at an annual conference Tuesday in Manhattan organized by Kansas State University, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1Uf2aoj ) reported.

Kansas data indicates that each public school counselor in the state handles about 440 students each. Watson said the state needs to decrease that number.

“We’re going to have to lower that,” Watson said. “Effective is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 250, where you can really spend time with each individual kid.”

Watson said counselors often pour many hours into administrative duties that detract them from fulfilling their mission of helping students build social and emotional skills and explore options for after high school. He says Kansas schools need to rethink the number of counselors they employ as well as what tasks they assign to counselors.

“Running it for the whole school and making sure classes balance could really be done by somebody else,” he said. “And that could be a task that could free up hundreds of hours for a counselor to then spend time on the social-emotional side.”

Watson also noted that schools face limited resources and she that school counselors need more funding.

“There’s things we can change within the system that don’t require money - they just require how we look at things,” he said. “And so are we going to put all of our resources, what little bit we have, into reading and math preparation, or should we put some into the social-emotional side? Those are decisions about allocation of resources.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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