Group explores ways to improve Idaho’s go-on rate

A group of education officials and counselors began meeting Tuesday to develop recommendations to ramp up college and career advising programs.

Chaired by State Board of Education Vice President Debbie Critchfield, the group of about 25 officials is a working group that is an offshoot of the state’s higher education task force, which issued 12 reform recommendations back in September.

Debbie Critchfield

Critchfield said the group is trying to come up with recommendations to improve the state’s go on rate. The group is also focused on implementing several of the higher education task force recommendations, including developing a pathways program that is designed to guide students throughout their entire educational journey, from preparing students to kindergarten though earning their degree.

The working group plans to develop recommendations to bring to the State Board of Education in August.

“Nothing is preconceived,” Critchfield said. “I have no idea what those (recommendations) will be or look like. We want to set the tone and get those conversations started.”

One goal the group may explore is ways to free up K-12 school counselors, so they can focus on the mental health side of counseling. At the same time, Critchfield also wants to explore ways to ramp up the college and career advising side of the equations, and wonders if it is appropriate for the state to require counselors to earn master’s degree if they are only focusing on college and career advising and making sure students have earned the proper credits to graduate.

Much of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to identifying barriers that bog down K-12 school counselors or hinder their ability to communicate with their counterparts in higher education settings. Factors the group identified include:

  • Testing.
  • Scheduling changes.
  • Lack of parent engagement.
  • Logistics involved in enrolling, verifying and reconciling advanced opportunities and dual credit courses for students.
  • A lack of a common vocabulary and uniform set of expectations and terms.
  • Getting students and families engaged with the college application and enrollment process.

“Our counselors, like many in education, are wearing 50 hats because of budget cuts and a variety of other reason since the recession of 2008,” Critchfield said.

More than 50 people were invited to join the working group. Members of the working group who attended Tuesday’s meeting included Critchfield, Idaho Education Association President Kari Overall, Idaho School Boards Association policy and government affairs director Quinn Perry, SDE Deputy Superintendent for Federal Programs and Academics Tim McMurtrey, representatives from colleges and universities, counselors and advisors from multiple Idaho school districts and Idaho Business for Education.

The group plans to meet again on June 4.

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