Added May 8, 2018
This article presents a case study of one urban elementary school where a school counselor conducted a small group academic advisement intervention. The school was identified as one of the lowest performing elementary schools in its district. The school counselor was charged with developing a six-week intervention that included detailed small group lessons supported by individual planning, including appraisal and advisement, designed to improve student academic success. The intervention involved two groups of eight student participants (16 total) from fourth and fifth grade who were identified based on universal screener data and teacher referral.
Students participated in a six-week intervention that included one 45-minute group session per week and two individual sessions over the six-week period. The first individual session took place after the second week, and the second individual session took place after the final small group session. Each group session, held during student lunch periods, included a student-led quick review of the group norms, a brief ice-breaker activity related to the small group topic, and 30 minutes of discussion and activities focused on various topics including learning styles, motivation, goal setting, procrastination and time management, stress management, emotion management, study skills, and organization.
This study examined the impact of the intervention through collection of attendance, discipline, and achievement data both pre- and post-intervention. Also, to gather information regarding perceptions of the intervention itself, students and parents completed an online survey. The results suggested that integrating the activities into the elementary school counseling program can be an effective Response to Intervention (RTI) Tier 2 intervention. Data are shared that show an overall improvement in both Math and Literacy grades and achievement scores. On average, students improved their Math and Literacy grades by one full letter grade. Additionally, the group realized an average gain of one proficiency level in Literacy (measured by a standardized assessment), and several students improved their Math proficiency scores.
During the intervention, students attended school more often than the quarter preceding the intervention. In fact, the average number of days absent per quarter went from 5.44 to 1.44, meaning, on average, students attended school four more days during the quarter of the intervention. In addition to being in school more, student participants spent less time in the office for discipline reasons. The group went from a quarterly average of 2.06 discipline referrals to .31 during the intervention.
The impact of the intervention on student and parent attitudes toward school and future success were gathered through an online interview of students and parents. Survey respondents viewed statements regarding their experiences and perceptions of the intervention (11 total statements), and they were then asked to respond to each statement using a five-point rating scale ranging from strong disagreement to strong agreement. Students and parents responded to the same interview protocol, substituting “My child” for “I” in the parent survey. Statements were centered on completion of work, quality of work, student attitude, and student confidence for future success. For example, survey respondents were asked to rate the level of agreement to a series of questions focused on completion and quality of both schoolwork and homework (e.g., After completing the program, I completed and turned in more homework.).
Overwhelmingly, students expressed positive perceptions of the intervention. For example, all 16 students responded that the intervention helped prepare them for the next grade level. Likewise, all students seemed to enjoy the program and its activities, and all of them would also recommend the program to other students. Most students expressed an improved attitude towards school, and increased confidence toward future success in school. Overall, parents expressed that they felt involved in the program and that the program helped prepare their child for the next grade level. Nearly all parents felt that their child had improved his or her attitude toward school, and all parents felt their child was exhibiting increased confidence toward success at school after the program.
This study generated several implications for school counselors, including how similar interventions, when implemented as part of a comprehensive school counseling program, can impact student achievement, improve school climate, and boost student and parent attitudes toward success in school. Implementing academic advisement programs in elementary schools as one component of the small group counseling program can be very effective for students in need of a Tier 2 intervention. These interventions can not only impact students’ attitude about school, but the interventions can also provide students an opportunity to experience “immediate” academic success and better prepare them for continued growth and success in the future. As school counselors continue to work with teachers to identify students in need of interventions, they may also want to ensure that teachers, parents, and administrators are aware of the counselor-led interventions and their impact. Counselors can, and should be a critical component in the school’s overall instructional program. By continuing to work with, and educate teachers and administrators, support for school counseling programs can be fostered.
Barry Kamrath, EdD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Teresa Brooker, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Barry Kamrath, EdD, Teresa Brooker
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