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Pupil Support Service Personnel (see data for this topic)

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Why This Topic Is Important
Pupil support service personnel address students’ social, emotional, behavioral, physical, and cognitive needs to help them reach their maximum academic and health potential (1, 2, 3). The availability of an array of pupil support personnel indicates a school’s capacity to meet a wide range of student needs. For example, school counselors often help students learn coping, conflict-resolution, and goal-setting skills that are critical to future success, and counselors also provide immediate support during crises (1). Educational psychologists provide some of these same services and also offer mental health counseling, identify learning challenges, and assist teachers in tailoring instruction accordingly (4). Speech-language-hearing and resource specialists provide direct service and case management for students with specific disabilities (5, 6). Nurses manage the daily health needs of students, which may include providing basic health care and screenings, connecting students to health care resources, and helping students manage chronic health conditions, among other responsibilities (3). Greater access to nurses and counselors is associated with more positive school climates which generally lead to better student performance (2, 3, 7).

Overall, these personnel work to ensure that children are healthy and have the support they need to be successful learners (1, 3). These staff also play an important role in creating a positive learning environment at school, which is linked to improved student behavior and academic achievement (1, 4, 7).
For more information on pupil support service personnel, see’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California Department of Education. (2016). School counseling programs – CalEdFacts. Retrieved from:

2.  American School Counselor Association. (n.d.). Empirical research studies supporting the value of school counseling. Retrieved from:

3.  National Association of School Nurses. (2015). The complementary roles of the school nurse and school based health centers. Retrieved from:

4.  California Association of School Psychologists. (n.d.). Working to improve California schools – one student at a time. Retrieved from:

5.  American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). The role of the SLP in schools. Retrieved from:

6.  California Association of Resource Specialists. (n.d.) Q & A. Retrieved from:

7.  Voight, A., et al. (2013). A climate for academic success: How school climate distinguishes schools that are beating the achievement odds. WestEd. Retrieved from:
Policy Implications
Pupil services personnel, such as school counselors and nurses, often provide critical support for student success, particularly for students with physical, emotional, or behavioral problems. Yet with limited school resources and numerous demands, policymakers face difficult decisions about levels of non-teaching staff. These personnel meet student needs that otherwise may fall to administrators and teachers to address, or they may not be addressed at all. School counselors, school nurses, and school-based health services in general, are linked to many positive outcomes, including a healthy learning environment and improved student behavior, engagement in school, and academic achievement (1, 2, 3). Fortunately, recent federal and state policy changes have created opportunities to expand these support services for students (1, 4, 5).

Policy options that could improve student access to quality support services include:
  • Maximizing partnerships and existing funding streams, such as California’s Local Control Funding Formula and the Mental Health Services Act, to ensure that students have access to school counseling and other mental health services, and promoting the use of research-based techniques to target specific student outcomes (1, 2, 4)
  • Promoting the delivery of health care services at school by funding school nurses and school-based health centers (the Affordable Care Act allocated $30 million for California to build or remodel school-based health centers) (1, 3, 5)
  • Integrating student mental health and health care services into a coordinated and comprehensive system of supports; a key aspect of such a system includes engaging school staff (teachers, administrators, etc.), students, parents, and the community (6, 7)
For more information about pupil services personnel, see’s Research & Links section, the California Department of Education, the California Association of School Counselors, the California School-Based Health Alliance, and the California School Nurses Association. Also see Policy Implications on under Bullying and Harassment at School; Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions; and School Connectedness.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  California School-Based Health Alliance. (n.d.). The Local Control Funding Formula: Maximizing the new school funding formula to expand health supports. Retrieved from:

2.  American School Counselor Association. (n.d.). Empirical research studies supporting the value of school counseling. Retrieved from:

3.  National Association of School Nurses. (2015). The complementary roles of the school nurse and school based health centers. Retrieved from:

4.  California School-Based Health Alliance, & Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California. (2014). Connecting students to mental health services: Creative collaborations, funding, and evidence-based practices. Retrieved from:

5.  California School-Based Health Alliance. (n.d.). Financing. Retrieved from:

6.  Adelman, H., & Taylor, L. (2015). Transforming student and learning supports: Developing a unified, comprehensive, and equitable system. Center for Mental Health in Schools. Retrieved from:

7.  California Department of Education. (2014). What is coordinated school health. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
The statewide ratio of students to full-time equivalent (FTE) pupil support service personnel has improved in recent years, from 263 public school students per support personnel in 2011 to 235 students per personnel in 2015. However, student access to support personnel varies widely by school district across the state.

In 2015, public school districts in California employed 7,876 FTE counselors, the most common type of pupil support personnel in the state. The ratio of students to counselors, 792:1 in 2015, does not meet the American Counseling Association's recommended ratio of 250 students per counselor.

The ratio of students to school nurses, 2,784:1 in 2015, does not meet the 750:1 ratio recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.