• IDRA Newsletter • January 2024 •
A decade after Texas policymakers weakened graduation requirements, middle school counselors struggle with their role of college and career advising under the 2013 House Bill 5. IDRA released a study recently, School Counselors on College Advising Constraints – A Ready Texas Study, about the impact of the law on their work and on students.
The Texas Legislature ended the previous graduation requirements commonly known as the 4×4 that required Texas students to graduate with four courses each in math, English, social studies and science. Students are no longer required to take some of the rigorous courses including Algebra 2 that prepare them for college. The policy also states that students must choose an “endorsement” – in essence, their career path – in eighth grade.
Those changes put middle school counselors in a heightened role of advising young students to make long-term decisions about their educational careers.
The majority of middle school counselors reported to IDRA that they spend at least 75% of their time performing tasks that have nothing to do with college and career counseling.
“In Texas, the counseling profession stands at a critical juncture in students’ lives,” said Hector Bojorquez, lead researcher for the study and IDRA’s director of operations and educational practice. “Counselors can directly influence how students see their future selves. Unfortunately, there are few policies or widespread practices to support middle school counselors in providing the best assistance to all students.”
The majority of middle school counselors reported to IDRA that they spend at least 75% of their time performing tasks that have nothing to do with college and career counseling. Nearly all counselors interviewed were skeptical that eighth grade students are developmentally ready to choose a career path. Counselors try to support them with little to no resources. The American School Counselor Association recommends that schools have a counselor-to-student ratio of 1 to 250. In Texas, the average is 1 to 390.
The following recommendations to Texas policymakers reflect our analysis of counselor responses and relevant research:
- Address counseling time and funding so that middle school counselors can better serve students, including reducing counselor-to-student ratios;
- Address issues of equity to prepare middle school and high school counselors to support all students’ college readiness and to address racial-ethnic and socio-economic disparities;
- Provide counselors with data on college readiness, success and endorsement outcomes;
- Equip counselors to engage with families in navigating the system for students’ college preparation and access and with their community to leverage community resources and knowledge; and
- Prepare all students for college.
The Greater Texas Foundation funded this study, which follows IDRA’s 2018 report, also funded by the foundation, that found rural school districts had a 24% drop in students taking Algebra 2.
Bojorquez, H. (2023). School Counselors on College Advising Constraints – A Ready Texas Study. IDRA.
Bojorquez, H. (May 2018). Ready Texas – A Study of the Implementation of HB5 in Texas and Implications for College Readiness. IDRA.
[©2024, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2024 edition of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]