Grammar-School Counseling On Rise

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In 1963, there were only 500 elementary-school guidance counselors. The interest in counseling at the grade-school level developed, authorities say, out of research findings in the child-psychology and child-development fields suggesting that behavioral problems may be more easily identified and treated in young children than in adolescents.

"The most favorable time for attacking school and societal problems is during the early formative years," said Robert D. Myrick, professor of education at the University of Florida. He and other researchers said that about 80 percent of a child's intellectual development occurs between conception and age 8, and that children establish lifelong behavioral patterns during the ages of 6 through 10--the first years of formal schooling.

"Preventive" guidance programs in these years, counselors contended, can also strengthen student confidence and self-management skills, enhance interpersonal relationships (particularly among students of diverse cultural backgrounds), and help to discourage experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and crime.

The demand for elementary-school counselors is still growing, observers who monitor guidance services said. In Florida, there are 1,000 elementary-school counselors, and the number is growing at a rate of about 50 per year, according to Billie P. Jackson, guidance consultant to the Florida Department of Education. Texas is under8going a boom in the demand for elementary-school counselors; there are now about 2,000, compared to 89 in 1965. "We don't have enough qualified counselors to fill the need," said Sue S. Mihalik of the Texas Education Agency's division of guidance services.

Two bills in Congress, one already introduced by Rep. Carl D. Perkins, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, and another to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Robert T. Stafford of Vermont, the Republican chairman of the Senate education subcommittee, would provide funds for comprehensive elementary-school guidance and counseling.

Under this legislation:

States and local education agencies would be required to develop plans for elementary guidance to be filed with the U.S. Education Department;

School districts would receive $5 for each elementary-school student for guidance program activities.

School districts could add one elementary-school counselor staff position.

Research and demonstration grants would be allocated to permit the development of innovative and exemplary guidance programs, needs-assessment activities, model counselor-training programs, and multi-media guidance materials.

Supplemental grants would be awarded to state education departments for leadership, professional development, and program-management activities.

Inservice-training activities would be conducted through teacher and counselor centers and state and local educational agencies to improve the skills of elementary counselors.

Professionally trained counseling personnel would be appointed to administer and to coordinate elementary-school programs at state and local levels.

The Congress took no action beyond holding hearings about the bill in the past several years, and the legislation is not likely to receive much attention this year, according to Congressional aides.--sr

Vol. 02, Issue 26

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