Our department began collecting pertinent data in the 2011-2012 school year as we developed our data-based, comprehensive counseling program. From the 2011-2012 school year to the 2014-2015 school year, we could see a steady decrease in the number of overall students who were receiving D’s and F’s as a percentage of total enrollment; however, our low income students meeting the federal guidelines for free and/or reduced lunch with D’s and F’s as a percentage of the total population were increasing. Our low income students comprise 11% of our total population. In the 2014-2015 school year, the students were making up 37.7% of out-of-school suspension days (OSS). At this point, we developed a list of students that were low income with multiple D’s and F’s and multiple OSS days. We then looked at the total number of days absent for each of these identified students. After cross referencing each of these data points, our related services team came together to discuss the generated list of at-risk students.
As we discussed these students, team members were able to provide anecdotal information that helped support our data and made us realize how much we needed an intervention for these students to succeed. As these students were identified as having several risk factors including low income, low grades, high absences and high OSS and ISS, we looked toward a more individualized intervention. Based on our research, we decided to implement a mentoring program as our intervention. We felt that above all else, these students needed to be connected to an adult in our building. We believed that if the students were here at school and more connected with staff member, it would naturally follow that grades would rise and suspension days would decrease. We researched several different mentoring models and chose to use our own staff as mentors to get the program off the ground. Twenty students from grades 9 through 12 were chosen to keep the amount manageable for this pilot year.
As research tells us, you need to be subjective in your choice of mentors and to choose caring, committed adults. We chose staff members who had already proven their commitment to our students in various ways. We reached out to these staff members and every one of them got on board and volunteered to become a mentor. Secretaries, campus supervisors, teachers and administrators all took on this role. By the end of the 2014-2015 school year, we had determined our group of mentees and mentors so we could hit the ground running at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year.
We facilitated a mentor orientation and three more mentor trainings throughout the year. Toward the end of the year, mentors were trained in terminating the mentor/mentee relationship. Support was offered all year to mentors and mentees, as well as some whole group activities. The results at the end of the year showed great promise and encouraged us to not only maintain the program but to put efforts into growing the program. Our perception data showed students became more connected to an adult in the building and the school experience in general. Our outcome data demonstrated that these students increased their attendance blocks by 12.3%, which far exceeded our goal of 3%. The mentees decreased suspension days from 91 to 75 and decreased D/F grades from 96 to 52.
The main obstacle that came to the forefront in this past year was the ability of mentors to access mentees for weekly meetings. Our students do not have study halls due to being on block scheduling and if the mentee’s lunch did not line up with the mentor’s lunch, a meeting time became very challenging. This impacted teachers more than the other staff members whose schedules were more flexible. To keep the program moving forward this year, we added more staff with flexible schedules. We are continuing to problem solve so teachers can be included as we grow our program. We are thrilled with the results of this program and feel that we are beginning to help some of our most at-risk students. We are looking at the benefits of students keeping the same mentor for multiple years. We will continue to tweak our process, grow our program and of course, collect data.