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NEW TACK ON COUNSELING IN HIGH SCHOOLS PRAISED

SHARE NEW TACK ON COUNSELING IN HIGH SCHOOLS PRAISED

Utah has begun a comprehensive approach to counseling secondary school students that could have a significant impact on moving students effectively from high school to future pursuits, a visiting professor says.

But the program will only succeed with continued support from the Legislature, education administrators and counselors themselves, said Norman Gysbers of the University of Missouri-Columbia.Last year, Utah's Legislature appropriated $1.5 million to institute better guidance services in more of the state's schools. The objective is to help students explore career options, make basic preparations for the world of work and identify personal post-high school goals.

Gysbers, who is recognized as an expert in school-to-work approaches, is the guest instructor for a week of comprehensive guidance workshops for Utah educators and administrators this week in Park City's Olympia Park Hotel.

In a pre-conference telephone interview, Gysbers told the Deseret News Utah is among the country's leaders in developing pro-grams to help students make a smooth transition from high school to whatever is next in their plans.

"Utah is right out there in front. Missouri's done a bit, but still has lots to do. Last year's legislation is an indication of how important legislators and other people in Utah are viewing the problem."

Working with each student on an educational/occupational plan takes time, said Gysbers. Counselors must be freed from mundane record-keeping and other non-counseling tasks so they can spend the time students need for assessing future possibilities and working out an individual plan to reach objectives.

Many of Utah's secondary high schools fail to meet Northwest Association accreditation standards because of high student-counselor ratios and because counselors are assigned jobs that don't relate directly to student planning.

The money appropriated last winter is expected to reduce counselor loads and provide training in preparing student plans. The Park City project is part of the effort.

Supportive school administrators are critical to successful counseling, Gysbers said. If they are not convinced of the need for comprehensive counseling for students, they may load counselors down with rote jobs or even, in tough budget times, cut them from school staffs.

"Administrators, as they hear the program, understand its importance how it fits into other programs. Once they catch the con-cept, there is little opposition," said Gysbers.

Adequate counseling involves more than just alerting secondary students to career opportunities. They need to learn decisionmaking skills and how to set achievable goals, he said.

Utah's support for vocational and technical training is a plus that works hand-in-glove with counseling to provide guidance to students who are not planning to continue their formal education, as well as those who are, Gysbers said.