Using Data to Improve Counselor Processes

Posted by Courtney StevensO

If it is designed to present actionable information and not just raw data, a district data platform can empower school counselors and improve student outcomes.

According to the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research, while 93 percent of middle school students say their goal is to attend college, only 44 percent end up enrolling in a degree-granting program after they graduate high school. What’s more, of those who don’t end up pursuing a postsecondary degree, nearly half believe they lack the skills to secure anything but entry-level jobs. As such, school districts have an enormous responsibility to improve their students’ college and career readiness (CCR), but it can be challenging to know where to start.

Counselors are on the front lines of these efforts, as they are responsible for working with students (and their teachers and parents) to drive academic, behavioral, and social growth inside and outside the classroom. However, it’s not always easy for counselors to foster CCR, especially when they are faced with portfolios of hundreds of students, each with different strengths and opportunities for improvement. This endeavor is made even more difficult for counselors when they are expected to use outdated, inefficient data tracking systems.

That’s why Hoonuit has made a concerted effort to provide counselors — and all educators — with easily accessible, data-driven analytics that empower them to prepare their students not only to graduate, but to thrive in the next chapters of their lives.

Counselors Need Data-Driven Solutions

Counselors are often the first line of defense when students begin to struggle, especially at the middle school and high school levels, where classroom teachers may only see a particular student for an hour each day. Therefore, it’s vitally important for counselors to be able to connect the dots strewn across a student’s entire academic journey to gain valuable insights into what the student needs. Without easy access to student data, however, counselors are unable to efficiently identify which students are struggling and why.

Traditionally, when a counselor would set out to plan an intervention, they’d have to gather all the information they needed in a piecemeal fashion. They’d send emails around their school — to vice principals, to teachers, to intervention specialists, sometimes even to a student’s previous schools — to collect a student’s transcripts, attendance and disciplinary records, and assessment scores. Without access to a centralized database, this counselor would be forced to use slapdash spreadsheets or even paper binders to organize the information they managed to collect. This was tedious and messy, and it left counselors with less time to sit down with the students who needed their attention most.

As such, by giving them all the information they need right at their fingertips, platforms like Hoonuit can help counselors reserve enough time for their most important, most substantive work. Not unlike teachers and administrators, counselors can use Hoonuit to quickly access a centralized student database to gain holistic insights into their students’ needs. With the addition of useful tools like Hoonuit’s student success module, counselors can gain an overview of the students they are responsible for and quickly identify the ones that need additional support.

For instance, if a student begins failing a course and is at risk of not graduating, a counselor can pull up the student’s profile and view their historical performance across various subjects. Perhaps they have been failing math courses for years, or maybe their struggles began because of issues outside of school that are reflected in their attendance. These insights can spur counselors into data-informed action, and give them more time to plan and execute their next steps strategically.

Guiding Course Planning

In the past, counselors have often found themselves unable to anticipate which students will need to attend summer school or enroll in a credit retrieval program until after grades are finalized at the end of the academic year. Without the relevant data at their fingertips, it’s nearly impossible for counselors to guide each of their students through planning their course loads for the coming year, and even harder to preemptively intervene before summer school becomes necessary.

This forces counselors into a mad dash to review all their students’ progress after grades are released and attempt to make any scheduling adjustments needed to keep them on-track for graduation or to start a communication plan with a student, their parent(s), and their teachers if they are off-track for graduation. 

Conversely, when a counselor uses a powerful data platform to strategically track students throughout the year, when it comes time to plot each student’s next steps, they will already know which students are on-track for graduation and which ones might need summer school. And, as grades do become available at the end of the year (or semester), such a platform will help analyze which students are on- or off-track based on the new information in near-real time.

What’s more, in the event that a student’s performance struggles have been overlooked, an advanced data platform can flag the student so that their counselor will know to dig deeper into the student’s records. Additionally, the counselor can backcheck into each student’s data wall to develop a unique plan based on the student’s specific needs.

Leveraging Data to Bolster College Readiness

In addition to their responsibilities outlined above, counselors are tasked with helping students bolster their CCR. Like helping students stay on-track for graduation, helping students prepare for college is a data-intensive process, and counselors need easy access to wide-ranging information in order to properly advise students.

In most cases, the first step in the CCR process is for counselors to evaluate their students’ performances. SAT and ACT scores, academic transcripts, and more all need to be integrated into a cohesive picture that counselors can use as a baseline for their recommendations. By being able to access this information in a centralized database (with tools like a single overview dashboard for each student), counselors can more easily assist students.

Hoonuit also uses National Student Clearinghouse data, enabling counselors to stay up-to-date on acceptance trends to better understand what schools are looking for in applicants. Easy access to this information not only helps counselors make better suggestions, but also minimizes their busy work so they can spend more time answering student questions and proactively providing guidance — think: using college persistence data to build tailored supports for various kinds of high school students.

Ultimately, competent, well-resourced counselors are an essential part of any district’s attempts to improve outcomes for students now and down the line. Partnering with Hoonuit is an excellent way to empower counselors and arm them with the information they need to be able to spend more face-to-face time with students and realize district goals.

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