High School Career Guidance: From the View of a Street-Level Bureaucrat

George C Thomas, University of Texas at El Paso


High school counselors struggle to complete the tasks assigned to them. Often serving more than 500 students, counselors must address requirements specified by the American School Counselor Association’s national model. They must also perform duties required by state and local policy, as well as campus-designated priorities. Empirical studies of school counselors have focused on identifying the duties that counselors perform, the effectiveness of training that counselors have received, and issues that occur from the standpoint of local control of counselor duties. I found no study that identified how counselors prioritize what they do or the level of discretion that counselors have in prioritizing their daily tasks. I found a disconnect that often occurs between principal accountability and the school counselor’s prescribed responsibilities.Lipsky’s street-level bureaucracy was used as a lens to view the phenomena of this study. Counselors are front-line workers who provide services directly to students. With a large caseload and a perceived unmanageable list of tasks to perform, they must make discretionary decisions on implementing their work assignments. As they use discretion, they create street-level policy. The alternative to individual discretion is introducing a local implementation policy that may eliminate discretion, but some tasks would be eliminated due to a lack of resources. The local entity or local educational agency has prioritized the counselor’s job duties. The use of discretion or local implementation policy may lead to issues with the distribution of services to the recipient, in this case the student.Charmaz’s grounded theory methods were used to conduct this research study. Semistructured interviews were performed with high school counselors and with administrators who directly supervise counselors. The study was conducted in a school district in a southern border community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subject Area

Education|Education Policy|Secondary education|School counseling

Recommended Citation

Thomas, George C, "High School Career Guidance: From the View of a Street-Level Bureaucrat" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI29169637.