Wayfinders: Supporting Young People Through a Focus on Equity

For many Wayfinders who support young people in achieving their dreams, it’s hard not to be worried these days by all of the emerging research on how much the pandemic has affected the educational and career pathways for young people. It’s especially worrying when we know that Black and Latino young people, and young people from lower-income backgrounds, have always faced greater barriers to accessing the resources that help young people explore possible careers between high school, postsecondary education, and beyond. 

As we cautiously lift our heads (and hearts) to once again hope for spring and recovery efforts ahead, this feels like a good time to consider how we might transform our concerns and our fears into action and real progress. How can we take stock of what we know when it comes to supporting young people in their pathways and, more importantly, figure out how to apply what we know to helping young people succeed in the here and now? In this issue of Wayfinders, we share recommendations on how to help young people gain greater access to college advising services and postsecondary support; we also share highlights from a recent virtual gathering on college advising. The last item, in particular, feels like an important reminder that no matter how isolating the pandemic’s effects have been, we are not alone in our shared endeavor to help young people find their way to their future lives. ​​

Building High-Quality School Counseling Programs for Student Success

School counselors play a critical role in the development and success of K-12 students. Access to school counselors is correlated to improved academic, social-emotional, and postsecondary matriculation outcomes. Unsurprisingly, the students who could benefit the most from school counseling resources also experience less access to these services.

A new brief by EdResearch for Recovery, a project of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, explores strategies to strengthen counseling programs amidst the Covid-19 pandemic so that all students can benefit from them. The brief explores the ways school counselors impact students’ lives and identifies strategies that K-12 decision-makers can deploy to strengthen their counseling programs. Recommendations include utilizing a comprehensive school counseling framework to implement preventive programming, as well as using data to reform policies, systems, and practices that create inequities.

The brief also calls out practices that inadvertently diminish student access to counseling, such as high caseloads (the national average is 424 students per counselor) and the widely-held expectation of administrators that school counselors commit time to non-counseling related tasks.The brief is one of a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision-makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the pandemic. Click here to read the full report. You can learn more about the EdResearch for Recovery Project and view the set of COVID-19 response-and recovery topic areas and practitioner-generated questions here

Wanted During the Pandemic: More College Readiness Support For Young People

High schools offer students resources, such as counseling and advisor services, that can smooth the path for high school students into their next phase of postsecondary education. A new report from RAND Corporation looked at the 2020 and 2021 Learn Together Surveys, nationally representative surveys with teachers and principals to learn more about social and emotional learning, postsecondary pathways, and support for students with disabilities, among other topics.  For this report, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, RAND’s Education and Labor division examined how the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic had affected students’ access to resources intended to help their transition to postsecondary education. 

Data from the two surveys show an uneven distribution of access to supports for postsecondary transitions across student groups, with high-achieving students accessing these resources the most. The data also indicated an overall decline in the career and college readiness support provided by high school teachers  since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the build-up of evidence on the disruptive–and often inequitable–effects of the pandemic on young people’s access to vital support services, the report recommends a number of strategies administrators can try, such as increasing staff who provide these services as a way to both increase student and family engagement in postsecondary engagement and supplement in-class support provided by teachers. 

For more ideas on how to help students transition to postsecondary education and careers, district and state leaders can check out the Invest Forward Pathways Playbook, which is aimed at helping educational leaders learn how best to invest pandemic recovery resources to help students succeed beyond high school.  

Virtual Gathering of College Advising Professionals Focuses on Equity and Access

Postsecondary education, whether it be a four-year or a two-year college, or other alternatives, is considered critical to helping more young people achieve economic equity in the future. However, with fewer young people applying to college–especially during the pandemic–connecting more young people to the postsecondary trajectory that best suits their needs and goals is becoming a more urgent goal. College Advising Corps is an organization dedicated to spreading a near-peer college advising approach specifically to help first-generation students from low-income backgrounds achieve postsecondary success. Recent graduates of top universities are recruited for a time-limited program to advise students on their college experiences and on their future educational and career goals.

For three days in January of this year, College Advising Corps convened over 1,000 college advisors and university program partners to focus on how to increase equity and access in the college advising world. Keynote speakers included Chris Soto, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary U.S. Department of Education and founder of the college access organization, Higher Ed. You can check out conference highlights through a video and a blog post here

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