Some high school counselors find a new partner to deal with HB 5

In 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed House Bill 5 (HB 5), which substantially changed the state’s curriculum and graduation requirements, assessment programs, and accountability system. With these changes, more has been asked of school counselors. All counselors are supposed to advise students and their parents or guardians of the importance of post-secondary education—including coursework designed to prepare students to progress in their education—and the financial aid availability and requirements.

Some high schools in Texas have found a partner to help ensure their campuses are doing everything they can to help their students be successful in their post-secondary pursuits. Advise TX is a chapter of the College Advising Corps, based in Chapel Hill, NC. Advise TX seeks to increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented Texas students entering and completing post-secondary education. Recent college graduates from five Texas universities (University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Texas Christian University, Trinity University, and Texas State University) are placed on high school campuses throughout Texas as “near-peer”college advisers.

Maria Miguel and Myliss Parker
Currently there are 120 Texas high school campuses with an Advise TX adviser. The advisers receive intensive training before serving in a high school, completing a six-week practical curriculum that focuses on college access, college admissions, financial aid, student services, diversity, community service, and professionalism. They work with high school counselors to create a college-going culture on the campus and help all students determine what the best post-secondary fit may for them.
High schools that have the Advise TX program are not allowed to reduce or supplant staff. The advisers do not replace current staff, but allow counselors to focus on academic advising. Advisers meet with the counselor before school starts to develop relationships and coordinate activities. “The adviser works in the individual planning component of the program and enhances the work done by the academic school counselor. She coordinates with the counseling department to optimize college-going related services,” says Myliss Parker, director of advanced academics at Los Fresnos CISD. Maria Miguel is the district’s program adviser.
Because the advisers are near-peers, they are able to connect with high school students. Many advisers are first-
Jane Dvorak and Rebecca McDonald
generation college graduates, and are in campuses similar to their own high schools. Jane Dvorak, senior principal at South Garland High School, Garland ISD, says her program adviser, Rebecca McDonald, has become an integral part of her campus. “(She) has the time and patience to give to students who are struggling with the college process. Most of our students are the first to go to college in their families, so there is little support at home. She helps parents and students through the process. Having her here allows the counselors to work with students on other issues,” Dvorak said.
The program is currently funded through a mixture of state funding and private grants. For the program to continue at its current level or expand to new schools, the Texas Legislature must allocate funds in this session. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has requested $8 million to replace discontinued federal funding to continue the program for the biennium.