ACA: American Counseling Association
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New Research Shows Lower Student-to-Counselor Ratios Result in Fewer Disciplinary Problems


The Center for School Counseling Outcome Research and the School Counseling Program at the University of Massachusetts has published a research brief entitled: The Student-to-Counselor Ratio: Does it Matter? by Susan A. Carrell, NCC.  In this brief, Carrell summarizes an important study she conducted to determine whether smaller student-to-counselor ratios were related to better student outcomes.  Carrell used linear regression modeling based on data from one large school district to estimate the impact of reducing elementary student-to-counselor ratios on the occurrence of student discipline problems.  She found persuasive evidence that smaller ratios would result in fewer disciplinary problems.

Determining the most appropriate student-to-counselor ratios is a critically important professional issue.  The establishment of guidelines for student-to-counselor ratios has thus far been based on professional judgment rather than on empirical research.  This study is an important pioneering effort in empirically establishing that more favorable ratios produce better educational outcomes.

We hope that this research brief will be helpful to those counselors advocating for hiring elementary school counselors at staffing ratios that enable effective practice.  We also hope that this brief will stimulate more research on the impact of staffing ratios on student outcomes. High school and middle school replications of this study are particularly needed, as are studies that examine the impact of reducing ratios on other student outcome variables (e.g. attendance, student engagement, and college transitions).  In addition, evaluations of larger scale initiatives aimed at improving educational outcomes by adding counselors are also very much needed.  Specifically, a statewide evaluation of California’s Assembly Bill 1802 and a national evaluation of the overall outcomes of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Demonstration projects would provide important information on the impact of reducing staffing ratios on student outcomes.

The full study is available at: