Report: Rural Michigan students need school counselors

By Farah Siddiqi • Michigan News Connection

A new report said Michigan has the lowest professional-to-student ratio of all states and pointed to the particular staffing needs of rural schools.

In Michigan’s rural school districts, just one counselor or school psychologist serves an average of 571 students, one finding in a report from the National Rural Education Association.

Allen Pratt, executive director of the association, said it may require more funding — or using funding differently — to improve adult-to-student ratios and serve kids better, especially in rural areas. He suggested Local Education Agencies get creative to help fill the void.

“We have to do more to train our teachers, number one, but also train folks in our community, in our school, to do a job helping these students,” Pratt contended. “Even if you had (a ratio of) 10-to-500, you still couldn’t get the whole job done. So, this is a community effort.”

The association’s report found some strengths in the system as well. Students in rural districts are more likely to graduate from high school than their nonrural counterparts. And having smaller schools and close community ties also creates advantages for rural kids.

Pratt pointed out a remarkable positive for Michigan is female students make up nearly 60% of the state’s gifted and talented students in rural districts. He argued it is important to focus on things like this and celebrate what’s going right.

“You have to take the numbers and you’ve got to put it in a ‘drive’ direction on what we need to change to get better,” Pratt acknowledged. “But also, let’s find positives. Even if it may even be a small positive, we’ve got to find positives to help our rural schools and rural communities.”

Pratt added policy changes in the next legislative cycle could help advance rural education in Michigan, as it appears to be on a forward trajectory.