Counseling in Action: Increase Equity for Underserved Students

While conversations of equity primarily focus on socio-economic factors, there’s a different kind of equity issue in schools that often overlooks underserved students: those pursuing futures that don’t involve college.

Helping students explore and engage in their options isn’t easy, and supporting all your students is no small feat when they severely outnumber counselors. Add that to the fact that you’re also trying to be effective crisis managers, and you’ve got a tough job set out for you. What we want to address in this article is how to support all your students in that type of environment.

Equitable Programming for Non-college-bound Students

There’s a noticeable gap between the support and services available for college-bound students and non-college-bound students. According to a Gallup poll, 54% of parents in the United States of children ages eleven to twenty-five prefer their children to enroll in a four-year college following graduation. However, this same poll also indicates that 46% of parents would prefer a different option even if there were no barriers to enrolling in college.

Equitable programming options for non-college-bound students include incorporating technical solutions that bridge the gap by:

  • Showing parents and students educational opportunities for non-college pupils
  • Providing adequate preparation for career-bound students
  • Offering practical career training to build skills in trade industries, including for mechanics, electricians, cosmetologists, and dental hygienists

Since 58% of the workforce requires specific skill sets to complete their jobs successfully, students must have the tools to acquire the skills that they will need to acquire the jobs in demand. However, with a student-to-counselor ratio of 424:1 nationwide, it’s challenging for administrators to find enough time to offer the guidance that students need.

How Technology Helps Drive More Equitable Student Career Programming

Underserved students are those who don’t have access to or receive the same opportunities as other students. The most common underserved student groups include those with low-income backgrounds, those who are from ethnic backgrounds, those who have disabilities, or those who don’t speak English as their first language.

Technology plays an integral role in program implementation and increasing equity for underserved children. It removes learning barriers by providing access to materials and supporting students’ success according to their needs.

School administrators, counselors, and educators can use technology for:

  • Identifying gaps in achievement, attainment, and opportunity after collecting and analyzing data
  • Identifying and addressing over- or under-representation of specific student groups, including advanced placement programs, honors, and special education
  • Acting as a liaison between the student’s home and school environment to encourage solutions for managing responsibilities beyond their course load
  • Collaborating with family members for those who need resources for childcare assistance, financial literacy, job skills, and more

Barriers to Equitable Programming for Underserved Students

Awareness is one thing, but taking action is another regarding understanding the ways to increase equity for underserved students. Before counselors can achieve that goal or even try to, they must first identify, understand, and address the barriers challenging this goal.

Examples of current challenges include solving various problems without having an adequate budget, lacking time, having the student-to-counselor ratio be too high, trying to be crisis managers, and needing access to data that reflects the effectiveness of implemental programming. There are also challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, including depression, anxiety, ineffectively remote work, family issues, staffing issues, and counselors being pulled back into the classroom.

Potential solutions that counselors can explore include:

  • Implementing a vision for school counseling that they hold and value personally
  • Helping to drive district initiatives
  • Creating equitable programs that all students can complete
  • Supporting student success across all career paths
  • Improving graduation rates, attendance, college-bound rates, and post-secondary education through career and academic planning

How Counselors Can Create More Equitable Career Programs for Underserved Students

These solutions are concrete examples of the need to leverage technology in a student’s successful transition from graduation to starting their career. It’s improbable for students and counselors to work through this process manually, underscoring the value of incorporating technology in career-planning strategies and education. In doing so, counselors can:

  • Make flexible curriculum plans (the assigned curriculum).
  • Increase student self-awareness in terms of interests, skills, aptitude, and more (assessments).
  • Streamline the career exploration process (career exploration tools).
  • Make it easy to manage post-secondary applications (colleges and applications).
  • Automate data that proves effectiveness (professional center).

Now Is the Time to Increase Equity for Underserved Students

Learning to increase equity is more than ensuring that every student has access to breakfast before school every morning. XAP provides Choices360, an online career and academic planning solution to schools for individuals to advance career and educational goals and discover, plan, and apply for new opportunities. Contact us at 1-800-468-6927 or email info@xap.com for more information about career and education planning.

Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.

To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!

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