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An Ecological Examination of School Counseling Equity


Amidst the rapid expansion of education reform aimed at promoting educational equity, noticeably absent has been a focus on school counseling—a profession uniquely positioned to support students’ postsecondary, social emotional, and academic development. Despite research continually affirming the positive influence of counselors on students, uneven access to counseling support across US public schools, especially in urban areas, remains a reality today. Notably, high student-to-counselor ratios in schools that educate a large proportion of students of color and those living in low-income communities suggest that those students most in need of access to counseling support are the least likely to receive it. In this essay, we outline school counselors’ unique roles in supporting minoritized youth and draw on Bronfenbrenner’s (The ecology of human development: experiments in nature and design, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1979) ecological systems theory to consider the nested systems in which counselors work—systems which, we argue, place constraints on school counseling equity. This systems-level framing moves away from casting the limitations of our current student support model as an individual-level, personnel issue and instead conceptualizes it as an organizational one that must be remedied to ensure all students have equal access to critical counseling support.

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Fig. 1


  1. We use the term “minoritized” to refer to Black, Latinx, and Native youth as well as those with other marginalized identities because it reflects how individuals’ minority status is ascribed by those in the majority (Smith, 2016).

  2. These sentiments promulgated a number of recent educator strikes in California, Illinois, West Virginia, and Oklahoma that called for the hiring of more school support staff (e.g., Eidelson, 2018).


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Correspondence to Mandy Savitz-Romer.

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Savitz-Romer, M., Nicola, T.P. An Ecological Examination of School Counseling Equity. Urban Rev 54, 207–232 (2022).

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  • School counseling
  • Educational policy
  • Social justice
  • Ecological systems
  • Leadership and systems-level change