A decade after the Texas Legislature watered down graduation requirements through Texas House Bill 5, middle school counselors continue grappling with the challenges and demands required by this policy. A new study from IDRA, “School Counselors on College Advising Constraints,” highlights the repercussions of HB 5 for both counselor workloads and student outcomes.
HB 5 established the Foundation High School Program (HSP) and ended the previous graduation requirements commonly known as the 4×4. Under the 4×4, Texas students were required to complete four math courses (including Algebra 2), four English language arts courses, and four social studies and science courses to graduate. Students are no longer required to take critical courses for college preparation, including Algebra 2. Instead, HB 5 requires that students pick an endorsement, locking in a career path they want to pursue throughout high school in the eighth grade.
This has created a new wave of challenges for middle school counselors. Nearly all counselors interviewed by IDRA were skeptical that eighth-grade students are developmentally ready to choose a career path.
IDRA’s study unveiled several key findings:
- More than half of the counselors interviewed saw HB 5 as an added burden and unfunded mandate that likely does not increase college and career readiness for underrepresented students.
- Few counselors reported knowing if students pursued careers related to their endorsement. They also lacked feedback on their students’ success post-graduation. This highlights the lack of quantifiable metrics available to determine whether HB 5 has been successful in its stated goals.
- Even after a decade of equity goal-setting by Texas school districts, counselors said they had no direct input into campus equity plans and were left out of key conversations surrounding equitable outcomes around college readiness.
- All counselors reported that their responsibilities to guide students in career exploration often took a backseat to their other duties: supporting student wellness, coordinating all student testing, assisting in creating class schedules, being short- and long-term teacher substitutes, and providing crisis counseling. Counselors reported that less than 30% of their time is spent on college and career counseling duties.
Counselors maintain a critical role in our students’ lives. They can directly influence how students see themselves in the future, especially in terms of college and career readiness, and play a key administrative role in their schools. Unfortunately, our counselors receive a dearth of support and resources in providing the best assistance to all students.