Marie Vivas is the IB Americas University Relations Manager. She has overall responsibility for university recognition in the Americas region, working closely with admissions professionals counseling university bound students.
Last week was National School Counseling Week and as a former Counselor and current advocate for counselors within the IB, Marie wanted to share her reflections, thank you’s and opportunities for all of us to keep serving the students we love so much.
Whatever else is going on in our lives and our communities I wanted to take a few moments to recognize our colleagues and to reflect upon the importance of counseling students in the university selection process and why it is important to support the work of these dedicated professionals.
I spent about half of my career counseling students in international schools and enjoyed tremendous support from my administration. Since my focus was college counseling that included funding for professional development, for membership in professional associations and for hosting college fairs and visits. What I have learned since then is that this was the privilege of working in affluent schools where parents valued education and where students were expected to go on to higher education locally and in many other countries.
Many of our public-school colleagues, especially those who work in schools that serve underrepresented students, have very little support and even less funding. They also have very large caseloads. According to the American School Counselor Association’s 2013-2014 data the average caseload in the US is 491 students per counselor while in some states the ratios are upwards of 700 to 1 and in one instance the ratio is over 900 to 1.
This is worrisome because there is compelling data from US Department of Education’s High School Longitudinal Study that shows that meeting with a counselor directly increases a student’s likelihood to attend college and to seek funding to make college attendance a reality. The details are outlined in this report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling:
Our IB community is deeply affected by this issue. In the US, 60% of all schools that offer IB Programs are designated as Title I schools. Our research shows that participation in the IB program increases the number of underrepresented students who go on to higher education. The data also shows higher retention and graduation rates for low income and minority students who take IB courses.
With that in mind Rachelle and I have piloted a series of Access Workshops that provide new insights to Low-Income IB Students who may have never had experience with the college admissions process. Rachelle has taken point on this initiative and is very close to publishing the different modules which will be available free of charge to IB educators. The idea is to give IB school counselors a toolkit that they can use to help IB students shine in their college applications and maximize their college choices. Keep an eye on our blog and our Facebook group for announcements.
Meanwhile, I urge you to take a look at the data, and to continue advocating for school counselors in your community because “The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
To our school counseling colleagues, I say thank you for your service, for your dedication and for your persistence. You make a difference every day.