School systems have multiple staffing options to meet the social emotional needs of students and support the work of school counselors.
Texas Education Code (TEC § 33.006 and § 33.007) specifies the duties of certified school counselors. Their primary role is to counsel students to fully develop each student’s academic, career, personal, and social abilities. A school counselor is expected to have the appropriate knowledge, skills, and credentials to improve the performance of students and is expected to actively participate in counseling-related professional development.
The certification for school counselors has evolved over the years. Originally, there were three types of school counselor certification levels:
- Special education counselor
- Vocational counselor
In 2001, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) added the “school counselor” certification (Early Childhood–Grade 12) and soon after discontinued the issuance of the above three certifications.
In accordance with Texas Education Code (TEC) § 33.005, individuals certified as a school counselor, counselor, special education counselor, or vocational counselor are certified to provide a comprehensive, developmental guidance and counseling program service to all students including special education students.
The requirements for the school counselor certificate as of December 21, 2017 include all the following:
- Successfully complete a school counselor preparation program
- Passed the school counselor certification exam
- Hold, at a minimum, a 48-hour master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution of higher education
- Have two creditable years of teaching experience as a classroom teacher
School counselors, including individuals previously certified as a counselor, special education counselor, or vocational counselor, can’t provide evaluation data to make special education eligibility determinations, but they can do all the following:
- Provide the comprehensive, developmental guidance and counseling program to all students including special education students
- Serve as a member of an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee
- Serve on the Response to Intervention (RtI) team
- Provide related services to special education students prescribed in the student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) until or unless the needs of the student exceed the school counselor’s training/scope of work. When this circumstance occurs the school counselor must refer the student back to the ARD committee for re-evaluation and possible referral, or the district must ensure that the school counselor obtains specialized training to assist in meeting the student’s individual needs.
Districts needing assistance with serving special education students should contact their local Regional Education Service Center.
Other licensed professionals
The Teacher Assignment Chart notes individuals certified or licensed to practice in other professions may be eligible to provide counseling services or evaluation services for students with disabilities under the scope of practice of the specific license held. This may include special education counseling services provided by a licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed specialist in school psychology (LSSP), or a social worker (SW).
LPC requirements can be found on the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) website. A school counselor may pursue this license to provide counseling services outside their employment with a school district.
An LSSP performs professional psychological work in assessment, behavior management, and counseling for students with emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. An LSSP can counsel, assess, and provide evaluation data for a special education eligibility determination to an ARD committee per 19 TAC § 89.1040. Licensing information can be found at Texas Association of School Psychologists.
In addition to providing special education counseling services, some districts hire social workers to provide casework services to students and families in coordination with the school counselor’s work. A social worker model job description is available in the HR Resources Model Job Descriptions (myTASB login required). Social workers must hold either a bachelor’s degree (BSW) or a master’s degree (MSW) in social work and obtain a social work license through BHEC.
School counselor staffing ratios
Typically, the number of counselors needed to staff a school program is dependent on student needs and the district strategic plan. The ratios should be sufficiently low to meet the identified, high priority needs of the students and the school community.
The one staffing requirement is to employ at least one school counselor for every 500 elementary students in the district. Districts with fewer than 500 elementary students can provide a part-time counselor, part-time teacher certified as a school counselor, or participate in a shared services agreement with another district to share a school counselor (TEC § 33.002).
The Texas Counseling Association (TCA), Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP), Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) recommend a ratio of one counselor for every 350 students.
Unless vetoed by the governor, Senate Bill 179 of the 87th Legislative session requires school boards to adopt a policy requiring a school counselor to spend at least 80 percent of their total work time on duties included in the school’s comprehensive school counseling program beginning with the 2021–2022 school year.
Time spent administering or providing other assistance in connection with state testing, except time spent interpreting test data, is not to be considered time spent on counseling. A district can’t include a provision in a school counselor’s employment contract that conflicts with the board policy and must annually assess its compliance with the policy. The commissioner of education must adopt rules to implement the compliance.
Full-time certified school counselors must be paid not less than the minimum salary schedule (TEC § 21.402) and provided a Chapter 21 contract (TEC § 21.002). LPCs, LSSPs, and social workers are not required to be employed by a Chapter 21 contract. They may be employed under a noncertified professional contract or at will.
For additional information, visit School Guidance and Counseling–FAQ or contact the State Board for Educator Certification at 512.936.8400.
Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay up to date with all the latest HR news and trends by joining the HRX mailing list!