How Many Social Workers Does Your District Have? Many school districts have too many

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It is incomprehensible that school districts are
rushing to hire social workers while educational standards are
dropping across the nation. In some districts, the budgets for
social services staff are higher than those for hiring additional
instructional staff; or for purchasing new science books for
sixth grade classes; or for funding quality training in reading
instruction for teachers.

Some schools have gone so far as to replace school
guidance counselors, who are trained in educational testing,
advising and counseling; with young social workers lacking any
background in the field of education. Some districts allow first-year
social workers to train intern social workers. Some districts
allow the various social and vocational activities planned by
these young and inexperienced social workers, to take priority
over the educational needs of the students, and the instructional
plans of the teachers. In some districts, students are traveling
to neighboring schools to beg assistance from real high school
counselors who actually know who to file forms and fill out applications.

Many wonder what lies behind such decisions, made
during this time of crisis in American education; in this time
of grade inflation and academic deflation. The lack of student
knowledge and thought processes puts the nation greatly at risk.
Our freedoms, and the future decisions for this country, rest
upon the shoulders of poorly educated students coming out of
our schools. American students are failing to learn…and the
districts hire social workers. Go figure. Or rather, “Fiddle,
Nero, fiddle.”

High school counselors have traditionally handled
high school counseling responsibilities in effective, reasonable
ways. They have known how to assist students in filing applications
for colleges, scholarships, ACT/SAT testing. They have known
how to be alert to potential scholarships and have kept seniors
aware of opportunities and filing dates. Guidance counselors
have been trained in testing and evaluation procedures so that
test taking, and test results, can be handled with integrity
and professionalism. For example, counselors are trained to put
space between test takers, and to walk the aisles, monitoring
to prevent talking or cheating.

I used to proctor for MENSA, so have experience
with group testing procedures, and I do extensive individual
testing and evaluation at my clinic. However, when I noticed
students seated side-by-side while taking the Michigan MEAP test,
I made the mistake of offering assistance to a young social worker.
I thought that this counselor-replacement must be stressed at
having to seat three students at each small, round table, making
it difficult for students NOT to cheat, so I stopped to help.
I explained that the retired high school counselor had always
found the custodial staff very nice about setting up long tables
for test days. The new employee made it clear that she was not
worried about the seating or cheating, and she complained to
the principal that my ‘behavior’ was pressuring her. I received
a stern reprimand and inadvertently learned that the district’s
hiring change, from educational guidance counselors to social
workers, was not based on any criteria that included skill and
integrity in administering precision test instruments.

Some might wonder if this hiring change could have
come about because of a shortage of trained school guidance counselors,
but that seems not to be the case. I know of one tenured, caring,
capable, teacher who spent years commuting to a state university
to take classes for a master’s degree in high school counseling.
Everyone in her building knew that counseling was her deep interest,
and that she was doing the degree on a timeline that would coincide
with the retirement of a senior counselor. The teacher completed
the new degree in time to apply for the vacant position, but
she lost the job to an inexperienced social worker, untrained
in school-related needs. So I learned another lesson — that not
even loyalty to long-term, well-trained, hardworking staff members
was reason enough to avert the district’s new policy of filling
the ranks with social workers.

Stress and dissatisfaction grows among and between
staff, since these new social workers, and their social agendas,
are becoming priorities in some districts. One soon learns to
never question the usefulness of these new employees, their positions
or their projects. Many are almost joined-at-the-hip with the
young principals, while teachers who have lovingly taught students
for decades are treated as liabilities; as used goods; as unnecessary
and unwelcome staff members. Teachers sense that plans are secretly
being made to replace we old knowledge-based dinosaurs with more
social workers, or at least with the new kind of educators — those
who believe in social leveling more than in teaching knowledge,
and thinking skills to students.

So — if these decisions to hire social workers,
rather than instructional staff or guidance counselors, are not
based on the need to improve the educational standards and academic
achievements in American schools; if these decisions are not
based on possession of special skills in proctoring the increasing
number of standardized tests now required by law; if these decisions
have not been forced by an inability to find certified and trained
guidance counselors; — then what could possibly explain hiring
decisions that not only detract from, but further harm American
schooling?

MONEY! Yes, I suspect that if one knew exactly
where to look, one would learn that all reasons lead back to
funding. I suspect that somewhere within the Clintons’ “Goals
2000″ attempt to implement the cradle-to-grave agenda within
the schools; one can find federal funds for partial, even total,
reimbursement for any expenses involved in hiring school social
workers. Consider the savings for a school district — they save
the cost of a guidance counselor’s salary and benefits, while
receiving a ‘free’ social worker — a warm body, at least; a gain
in adult-to-child ratio; at least ‘on paper.’

Might the Clintons’ School-to-Work program be funding
the new social workers being hired as career counselors? Where
else would school districts get such funding? If schools could
truly afford additional personnel, why would they not, considering
the shocking and embarrassing rates of illiteracy and failure
in American schools, hire reading specialists, instead?

Schools are not meant to be altruistic institutions;
they are meant to be educational establishments. It simply does
not make sense that school boards would willingly, without federal
financial bait, hire social workers, untrained in any aspect
that would contribute to the improvement of academic standards.
Money. Federal Money. Nothing else explains such seemingly inexplicable
expenditures made by supposedly financially strapped school districts.

February
17, 2003

Linda
Schrock Taylor [send
her mail
] lives in northern-lower
Michigan, where she is a special education teacher (in Room 18),
a free-lance writer, and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where
real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.


     

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