The School Counselor: A Vital Member of the AP Team

I am lucky to work with a fabulous school counseling team and I have been thinking this weekend how vital they are to the success of the AP program in my school.  Counselors, like most teachers, are incredibly over-burdened and in some places have become mere schedulers and test administrators, rather than the powerful student advocates that they might have hoped to be.  As a lead teacher seeking to build and maintain an inclusive and highly successful AP program, you need to consider the ways in which the school counselor can be your ally in this endeavor.  There are three main areas in which I see the counselor playing an important role.  I hope some lead teachers and couselors who read this post will comment and provide more ideas.  Here are mine:

  • Most counselors help students choose the classes that will make up their schedules.  How powerfully do they advocate for and encourage students to consider taking AP classes?  Do they discuss the advantages of AP classes with students and parents?  Do they make use of AP Potential data in order to match students to classes in which they are likely to be successful?  In some schools, counselors also build the master  schedule for the school by determining when various classes are offered.  Do the counselors protect singleton AP sections from competition from band or sports or other single section classes?  Do the counselors welcome AP teachers to parent information nights or other registration events to share information about the AP program?
  • When students are struggling in an AP class, they often visit the couselor for advice.  Does the counselor quickly reach for a drop form or do they provide the student with advice on how to tackle academically advanced coursework.?  I would hope that an effective counselor would ask a struggling the students at least these questions:  How often have you been in for tutoring with the teacher?  Have you found a peer with whom you can study?  Have you tried on-line tutorials or videos to help you learn the material?  Are there outside of class issues that are impacting your performance?  What are three specific actions you can take this week that will help you to do better?
  • Counselors are often in charge of actually registering students for, ordering and administering the AP exams.  How pro-active are they in getting students to make use of fee waivers?  Do they provide an environment conducive to good testing performance and use best practices in managing the actual administration of exams?  I cannot tell you how often I have heard about  student performance suffering because exam administrators have been inept or downright incompetent. 

My own school works very hard to build their AP program with the active involvement of all stakeholders including administrators, counselors and teachers.  In some places, counselors can be much better advocates and champions of the AP program if they have the opportunity to learn more about it.  That might mean AP teachers hosting a lunch or after school “happy hour” with snacks and non-alcoholic (hope I didn’t need to specify that) beverages to help the counselors learn more about the program and the vital role that they play in its success.  There is also training available through the College Board for AP coordinators and test administrators.  Contact your regional office of the College Board for more information.  As I said, I hope this post will generate some thoughts and discussion and that you will send me comments.  I am also looking for other topics for future posts.  Thanks again for reading!

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One Response to “The School Counselor: A Vital Member of the AP Team”

  1. Timothy Gusukuma Says:

    Definetly thought provoking over here. I attended a summer AP institute you ran this year at TCU, and must say I quite enjoyed seeing the level of AP class you run.

    That said, my school is currently in the middle of district pressure to increase AP test score passing percentages across the board. They want increases this year, for which the only idea I can come up with is discourage weaker students from taking the exam, but that leads me to this question: Where do you think AP students are first created? At what level to students have to be in honors/pre-ap to have a realistic shot at 3+ on the exam, or is it a personal green-ness that keeps me from thinking that my students that come from regular pre-cal that can’t factor or evaluate any trig functions for radians on the unit circle have no great shot at passing the exam? If you have the same kinds of students, what percentage of them pass and what are the keys to getting those marginal regulars kids to moderate AP level?

    For ap in general, you posted ideas and incentives for increasing performance and participation, but what is a reasonable timeline to do so with modest goals of increasing by say, 20%? Do you see AP class growth as the AP teacher’s initiative or a cohesive school and district response? If school and district, who are the other key players besides counselors and what is their role?

    Thanks, I hope that gives you some fuel for posts and that it generates some good ideas I can bring to the (newly created) AP campus improvement meetings.

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