School Support Personnel: Gains Mask Needs

What to make of the fact that here in California, we have higher numbers of school support staff (counselors, psychologists, nurses, librarians, social workers, resource specialists, and speech/language/hearing specialists) than a decade ago?

If we were placing bets, most of us probably would guess that over the last decade, schools’ ability to offer resources beyond the classroom would have diminished, perhaps even greatly.

But we’ve made gains – no doubt about that. California students’ access to support staff improved from a ratio of 340 students to 1 pupil support personnel in ’98 to 211:1 in ’09.

Despite that progress we still have a long way to go – and that may be the key take-away from these data. After all, when measured up against national recommendations, we’re not doing well in California. For example, while the students-to-counselor ratio improved markedly from ’98 to ’09, the actual ratio – 668:1 in 2009 – is much worse than the American Counseling Association’s recommendation of 250 to 1. Likewise, there are more nurse FTEs in our schools – about 25% more in ’09 than ‘98. However, California’s 2009 ratio of nurses per student – 2,035:1 – is nearly three times worse than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of 750  students per nurse.

And keep in mind, too, that the pupil support indicators on kidsdata, while quite recent, may not yet take into account the ramifications from the Great Recession. In the graph above, it’s hard to miss the fact that the growth in pupil support FTEs stalled in 2009. We’ll check back next year to see what 2010 data tell us.

Student support staff provide a crucial range of services. Counselors offer prevention programs; speech/language/hearing and resource specialists work with children who have special needs; and nurses serve as a link to health resources and often provide basic health care and screening.

As the increasing poverty rate due to recent economic woes takes its toll on children, these kinds of in-school services are all the more crucial. Are school budgets so lean now that we’re finding it harder to address students’ overall well being? We can see what’s happening statewide – gains followed by a possible retrenchment – but we want to hear your local insights. Please add a comment below or on kidsdata’s Facebook page.

Posted by Andy Krackov

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 5:32 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. CA School Nurses Organization says:

    Our concern is that the data is not actually new. It is 2008-09 data, which was collected thru CBEDS. That data is self-reported by the school districts and
    • CDE is unable to follow up to confirm the reliability of the reported numbers.

    • There is much confusion in the understanding of nursing licensure and credentialing, and many districts do not understand the differences, or ignore them.

    • Several districts claim far more nurses than they actually have – according to the actual nurses that work there.

    • Other districts will share 1 nurse, but will all claim her, so that 1 nurse shows up as 5 in the total state count

    Other issues:
    • There are school districts that have nurses who only deal with the special education students.

    • Regular students rarely see a school nurse. Care is left up to the secretary or “health aides”, “health techs” or whatever the current popular title is.

    • Approximately half of the school districts do not list any nurses, of any kind.

    • When asked about a school district that is reporting regular, un-credentialed nurses in CBEDS, and is there anything in the reporting mechanism that reminds schools that they should be reporting only those who are credentialed school nurses – CBEDs states that beginning last fall, certificated staff data will be collected through CALPADS (California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System). CALPADS will only accept records for staff with an assigned SEID # from the CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). SEID numbers are assigned to credentialed staff.

    Those numbers were to be released last month, but we have not been able to see them.