During the 2015-2016 school year, the Oakton High School Counseling Department developed three small groups that focused on increasing the grades of students with a 2.7 GPA and under, as well as acceptance rates to four-year colleges for Hispanic male students in the class of 2019.
The Ninth Grade Study Skills Group was created in an effort to increase ninth grade students’ grades. Based off first semester grades, the freshman class was identified as having the most at-risk students for being retained with 28% of students on the list belonging to the freshman class. One counselor, Elizabeth Chase-Kang, and a counseling intern, Chloe Thomas, managed the group which included students from two counselors’ caseloads. The counselor who executed the groups recognized a need based off first semester grades as well as parent feedback. She also had prior experience running ninth grade study skill groups. The counseling intern participated to gain more experience and to add insight and new ideas. Fifteen students were selected because either they earned at least two D’s and/or F’s after the first semester or their parents made a request to the counselor group leader. Due to the size of the group, two small groups were created- one with seven girls and one with eight boys.
As a result of a pre-group survey, the counselor and intern designed lessons focused on goal setting, study skills, time management, and a question and answer session with an OHS senior. For future study skills groups, several logistical changes may be needed to improve the execution, such as forming groups earlier in the school year to provide more time for students to demonstrate understanding of the group content and to put the skills into action. The participants indicated that they would have liked a more consistent schedule each week as well as to meet more frequently than four times. Because the group members experienced success by improving one letter grade in at least one class by the end of third quarter, and no group members were retained at the end of the school year, the group should continue next year and expand to include all freshmen who are on the D & F list.
College Partnership Program (CPP), a group that has been in existence at Oakton High School for many years, focused on students, primarily first generation and minority students, enrolling and succeeding in four-year colleges. The group was co-lead by Quesuan Wigfall, counselor, and Jenny Collins, career center specialist, because the former counselor who lead the program retired and both leaders were new to OHS last year and interested in the program. CPP is a Fairfax County Public Schools Program, which means many of the topics and initiatives such as college visits are arranged at the county level. Yet, many of the topics presented were as a result of the perception data. The outcome data illustrates that all seniors who participated enrolled in a form of post-secondary education and this suggests that the group should continue to reach Oakton’s underrepresented student population. One of the group’s goals was to increase applications and enrollment in the program, which was achieved. Enrollment increased from sixteen to twenty-eight members.
The Senior NOVA Group focused on seniors who need assistance with enrolling at Northern Virginia Community College post-graduation. Students were identified by their counselors when they either expressed interest in NOVA or did not apply to a four-year college. The group was managed by Jenny Collins, career center specialist, because she worked closely with both the NOVA admissions rep and NOVA first-year advisor, as well as served as the Counseling Department’s liaison with colleges. Topics chosen for the group were outcome driven: introduce, apply, take placement tests, and schedule classes. Students who completed the group received extra support and guidance through the application and enrollment process in a convenient and encouraging manner, which demystified the process. This group is a valuable resource for Oakton’s student population that is the minority of students who often may be under looked. The group will continue and may need to expand to students who were not admitted to a four-year college.