The closing the gap goal was originally chosen as a target goal during the 2012-2013 school year. At that time we had assessed data from the 2011-2012 school year. The intervention became a psychoeducational group titled Yes You Can, and has been run every year since, with modifications in curriculum made yearly based on perception data and participant feedback. Each year the data is the reevaluated, incorporating perception data from group participants as well as the school wide needs assessment (conducted annually), school discipline data, school attendance data and National Clearinghouse data to determine whether the gap still exists and if the group is an appropriate intervention to support the gap.
Originally the group was intended to support Hispanic and African American students who according to data at that time were matriculating to college at a significantly lesser rate than their peers. However, when reviewing all of the above pieces of data from the 2014-15 school year, disaggregated by gender, grade level, ethnicity and socioeconomic level, it was noted that low income students (those who qualify under free and reduced lunch program, FRL) who in many aspects academically matched their peers, were matriculating to college at a significantly lower rate. The 2014-15 National Clearinghouse data revealed that the following percentage of students matriculated to college: 81.69% of Caucasian , 68.75% of Hispanic, 62.50% of African American and 62.0% of FRL. There is also a high overlap and correlation in FRL students amongst the African American and Hispanic student population.
This gap, of FRL students was then broken down by GPA and those with a GPA of 2.0+, were invited to participate in the group 14 week psychoeducational group Yes You Can during the 2015-16 school year. The Yes You Can curriculum centers around career exploration, expectations for postsecondary planning, college myths and vocabulary, breaking down the college search and application process step by step and financial aid including understanding the true cost tuition, etc. These lessons are targeted to increase participants understanding of the process, provide them with the resources, increase their confidence in their ability to reach college and decrease their sense of overwhelmedness regarding college and most importantly help them navigate the financial barriers that limit them more than their peers.
This group also includes a field trip to experience a university firsthand. This group of junior, underrepresented students were given everything that we give our seniors in a short presentation senior year but in a small group setting with 4-5 other students at a time, over the course of 8 weeks that fostered open communication and dialogue around concerns, questions and feelings regarding postsecondary achievement particular to their struggles as low income students.
Perception data showed positive growth as it is perceived by the students themselves which we believe to be important. For example at the end of the group 94% of participants felt confident that they had the skills and resources needed to achieve their goals (a 12% increase), 63% were able to identify what EFC means in relation to financial aid (a 45% increase) and 40% were able to correctly demonstrate a skill in identify a tool to use in the college search process (a 39% increase). We are still awaiting the National Clearinghouse data for the class of 2016, which typically takes up to a full calendar year, but using self reported data from our senior exit survey 90% of participants indicated that they planned to attend college (either 2 year or 4 year) in the fall of 2016. Participants from the 2015-16 group are also being followed up with individually, at the start of their senior year by the college counselor and also the counseling interns to provide one-on-one support through the application and financial aid process in the fall.
For the 2016-17 school year we have again assessed the most recent school wide data, group participant perception data and the 2016 needs assessment data which indicates a gap still exists. Supported by data we have determined that this group is appropriately fit to run again. We are making gains with each year, as evidenced by the Clearinghouse data but it is small in growth and there is much more to be done. Our current Yes You Can groups are set to begin before the end of October, which is a change from previous years so they are starting earlier to allow the addition of 2 more weeks of curriculum and discussion, one of the changes being made currently.