How Utah Got Financial Backing for Comprehensive Guidance

By Jensen, Lynn | Vocational Education Journal, May 1995 | Go to article overview

How Utah Got Financial Backing for Comprehensive Guidance


Jensen, Lynn, Vocational Education Journal


In This Insider

Before the school-to-work transition can be a reality for our high school graduates, there must be a marriage of guidance counselors and vocational-technical teachers. It has been well publicized that 75 percent of jobs by 2000 will not require a college education but will require technical skills and knowledge. Guidance counselors need to reach their students with this important information and help them build realistic career maps. A solid, program approach to guidance is the only way this can be achieved. The following article by Lynn Jensen explains how Utah is getting it done.

Elaine Burrows, field editor of this Insider, chairs the Counseling Department at Kearns High School in Salt Lake City, Utah.

By spring 1989, secondary vocational directors in Utah were becoming increasingly concerned about declining enrollments in vocational courses, the growing number of students who described themselves as being in a "general" program and a career counseling effort that seemed to be little more than a perfunctory response to a State Board mandate. These problems were further compounded by a pupil-counselor ratio that was on a steep upward spiral. In 1982 each counselor was responsible for 430 students. By 1992 that number had increased to 550.

Program administrators in the State Office of Education Vocational Division and leaders of the local vocational directors' group believed dramatic measures were needed to restructure guidance in the state. They agreed to commit up to 10 percent of federal, state and local resources for guidance support. However, tied to this commitment were the stipulations that guidance be established as a full-fledged program.

The Perkins Acts of 1984 and 1990 both advocated a developmental, comprehensive guidance program, but no funds were appropriated. Utah officials concluded that the vision of this new paradigm for guidance was not likely to become reality unless money could be found to provide for the retraining of school counselors, principals, teacher leaders and other personnel associated with the school's guidance team. Secondary vocational directors looked to their own major funding mechanism--the state legislature--as a source for the needed support.

Value added

Utah lawmakers have for a number of years recognized the "added cost" of vocational education programs, such as expensive equipment updates, necessary curriculum modification to coincide with technological advancements in the workplace, and the lower teacher/pupil ratios required for effective instruction in vocational labs. The state appropriates about $30 million each year for these "added costs" in local districts.

Local vocational directors thought it would be reasonable to dedicate 10 percent of the state-appropriated funds to a guidance program if a means could be established for the program to meet the funding standards. Certainly, an effective career guidance program and meaningful "student educational and occupational planning" (SEOP) process could justify the added cost if it improved the delivery of vocational education in the state.

No one could anticipate the profound impact that this simple commitment of budgetary support would have on guidance in Utah. Within the last two years, the state legislature has established a separate funding program for comprehensive guidance and appropriated $3 million to fund the first two phases of a four-phase effort. A legislative interim committee passed a resolution to support the program with an eventual $6 million appropriation for students in grades 7-12. Seeing an improvement in student career planning, district administrators have hired additional counselors. This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the pupil-counselor ratio.

What led to this dramatic reversal of fortunes for counseling and guidance in Utah's schools? The first step was the decision to adopt the Comprehensive Guidance Program model developed by Norm Gysbers at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and program implementation strategies developed in Missouri under the leadership of Marion Starr, director of Guidance and Placement. …

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