A study of counseling practices at four Chicago public high schools with predominantly Latino enrollment indicates many Latino students are not getting basic services that could help them stay in school.

A survey of students at those schools last winter and spring found that 40 percent had not yet met with a counselor that year. Latinos had the least contact compared to Asian and white students. Overall, 31 percent of Latino students surveyed said they had never met with their counselor, compared to 16 percent of Asian students and 17 percent of white students.

Over 4,200 students completed the surveys, for a response rate of 62 percent. Most respondents, 60 percent, were freshmen and sophomores.

The study was conducted by the Chicagoland Latino Educational Research Institute, the research arm of ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois, a Puerto Rican nonprofit group. Virginia Valdez, who oversees the research institute, wrote the report. The names of the four schools were not disclosed.

As at other high schools, freshmen at these schools spent little time with counselors, while seniors used counselors’ services more than any other grade.

Counselors tend to focus on juniors and seniors and their plans after high school, but younger students need counseling to keep from dropping out, Valdez says. “There should be more focus on freshmen and sophomores. It’s your freshmen and sophomores who are likely to drop out.”

Counselors interviewed for the study told Valdez they were not involved when the advisory program was planned at their schools, even though the School Board mandated advisory in part to ease counselors’ burdens. As a remedy, Valdez suggests that schools assess student needs and use those findings as a guide for advisory curriculum.

Other key findings include:

Only 30 percent of the students surveyed indicated counselors had helped them choose courses. Research shows that students who select courses with input from counselors are more likely to take college preparatory courses. Only 19 percent of students surveyed said that a counselor had given them information about honors or Advanced Placement classes.

A majority of students—52 percent—said they did not know their own grade point average. Students who did not know their GPA were less likely to have spent time with a counselor.

School staff failed to help students when they were in academic or other trouble. About one-third of students said no one had spoken to them when they missed more than five days of school in a quarter. (If a student misses five days without excuse, a parent conference is required.) Nearly half of the students surveyed whose grade point averages were below 1.75 said no one had spoken to them about missing class or their overall performance.

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