Nation Earns a Grade of C Amid Mixed State Showing
The new Education Week Research Center report, Quality Counts 2019, synthesizes 39 indicators that capture a range of school finance, academic achievement, and socioeconomic factors that affect the quality of state school systems. Southern states with high poverty rates dominate the lower rankings, but overall, 32 states earn grades between C-plus and C-minus. Why does the U.S. educational system consistently get low marks for student academic achievement?
The Quality Counts 2019 report includes a Chance for Success index that evaluates education -related opportunities throughout an individual’s lifetime from cradle to career. The weighting of this factor has the most profound negative impact on the overall low rankings of the bottom 32 states. In other words, it is not academic barriers that prevent achievement but rather socioeconomic factors.
The Role of Social Workers in Education
The increase of students with more extensive social or emotional needs — and a greater recognition of those needs — has created an important role for social workers in America’s schools.
- The role of a school social worker involves wearing many hats, including truancy officer, case manager, student and parent advocate, student mediator, counselor and distributor of resources.
- Historically, school social workers have been involved in mental health services, crisis intervention, truancy and various related issues.
- “We address any barriers that prevent students from being “present,” both physically and emotionally,” one school social worker told us recently. “We work with nonacademic barriers. We feed people; we clothe people; we find housing. We are there making sure families have basic needs met so that when their child comes to school, they can just focus on what they have to do [there] and not on all of the chaos and need that they have outside of school.”
- Another aspect of the school social worker’s role is crisis intervention and prevention. With the ongoing spate of school shootings, as well as increased awareness about suicide, substance use, and other similar issues, this work has become increasingly prevalent.
- School social workers’ drive for social justice makes them important advocates within a school district. When social workers notice that certain groups of students are being treated differently, they are the ones most likely to draw attention to the discrepancy.
- Each school social worker’s role may be different, depending on district need. To a degree, their roles may overlap with, or be an extension of, the school’s guidance counselors and psychologists. But they are most consistently a bridge between the school, the students, the families and the resources and community available to them.
Why So Few School Social Workers?
According to the ACLU publication Cops and No Counselors, 10 million students are in a school without a social worker. Fourteen million have no social worker, counselor, nurse or psychologist. However, all of those students are in schools with police presence. The ACLU found that there is one school social worker for every 2,106 students. The recommendation is a ratio of 1:250.
It’s not a lack of qualified school social workers; it’s a lack of positions. Apparently, not everyone in a position to hire or create district budgets understands what a social worker is and what services they may offer.
The best way to help add more school social workers in schools is for those who are there to highlight and promote their own work. That’s why we wrote this blog on behalf of school social workers and their critical role in helping America’s children get the education that launches the “upward mobility” of the American dream.