Special Report
Student Well-Being Data

Data: Does Your State Have Enough School Psychologists and Counselors?

By Maya Riser-Kositsky — March 28, 2022 2 min read
Close up of a psychologist with a clipboard and taking notes and a student's knees in the background - stock photo
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Clarification: This story was updated to better reflect the job duties of school psychologists and counselors.

School psychologists and counselors are crucial to supporting the mental health and well-being of students in school. This is especially true as kids’ mental health needs continue to rise and survey data show that students are asking for more school-based mental health services.

But an original analysis of federal data by Education Week finds that many school districts fall way below recommended staffing levels for both professions.

What do school psychologists do? What do school counselors do?

While there is often some overlap in the roles psychologists and counselors play in schools, the National Center for Education Statistics’ Common Core of Data provides definitions of the roles of school psychologists and counselors that include these responsibilities:

School Counselors/Directors are professional staff assigned specific duties and school time for:

  • counseling students and parents,
  • addressing learning problems,
  • evaluating students’ abilities, and
  • assisting students in career and personal development.

School Psychologists are professional staff members who provide direct and indirect support, including prevention and intervention, to evaluate and address:

  • students’ intellectual development,
  • academic success,
  • social-emotional learning, and
  • mental and behavioral health.

How many students have no access to school psychologists or counselors?

While most schools do have school psychologists and counselors, some do not have any.

More than 5.4 million public school students (12%) attend districts with no psychologists.

Almost half a million students (1%) attend districts with no school counselors.

See Also

Image of student managing obstacles.
Kasia Bogdańska for Education Week

What percent of students have adequate access to psychologists and counselors at school?

The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist to 500 students and the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of one school counselor to 250 students.

Only 8% of districts meet the recommended ratio of school psychologists to students.

Just 14% of districts meet the ideal student-to-counselor ratio.

Is a district’s demographic makeup correlated with meeting the psychologist or counselor ratios?

In general, districts with a higher percentage of white students more often meet the recommended mental health support staff-to-student ratios.

Six percent of districts where less than half of students are white met the psychologist ratio, compared with over 9% of districts where more than half of students are white.

Ten percent of districts where white students make up less than half of enrollment met the recommended counselor-to-student ratio, while 16% of districts where white students make up 50% or more of their enrollment met the recommended ratio.

What percentage of students in your state have access to the recommended ratios of school psychologists and counselors?

Only in Maine, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia do more than half of students have adequate access to school psychologists. And only in New Hampshire and Vermont do more than half of students have adequate access to school counselors.

Holly Peele, Library Director contributed to this article.
Coverage of whole-child approaches to learning is supported in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, at www.chanzuckerberg.com. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says Teen Brains Aged Prematurely During the Pandemic. Schools Should Take Note
Researchers cite chronic stress during the pandemic for the phenomenon, which can affect mental health among youth.
3 min read
Cracked silhouette of a person holding their head with illuminated gears in place of the brain.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Sports Coaches Want More Training on How to Address Young Athletes' Mental Health
A survey found that only 18 percent of coaches feel confident that they know how to connect their athletes to mental health supports.
4 min read
Physical Education teacher Amanda DeLaGarza instructs students how to stretch during 7th grade P.E. class at Cockrill Middle School on Nov. 9, 2016 in McKinney, Texas.
Schools in the United States earned a D-minus grade in 2022 in an international ranking from the Physical Activity Alliance for how well they facilitate access to physical activity for students. Research shows that physical activity, such as participation in sports, improves mental health.
Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Student Well-Being Opinion One Simple Thing You Can Do to Make Yourself Happier
A happiness and time researcher shares a simple hack to make experiences more pleasurable.
Cassie Holmes
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Student Well-Being Schools Are Not Identifying All Their Homeless Students. Why That Is Hurting the Kids
Hundreds of thousands of homeless students are not receiving the services they need, new report says.
3 min read
A young Black girl with her head down on a stack of books at her desk in a classroom
E+/Getty