The LHHS counselors evaluated three lessons which are linked to school counseling program goals, the LHHS Counseling Program’s vision and mission, and based on ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors. Counselors identified key components that benefitted students, as well as made updates and revised curricula to better serve ALL students.
The first lesson targeted the goal of decreasing the number of referrals for unexcused absences. Students completed a pre-test with questions regarding perceptions about school success and graduation requirements. After the pre-test, an interactive discussion regarding school success (including attendance), graduation requirements and extracurricular opportunities occurred, by emphasizing the significance of planning and attending school.
On the pre-test, the majority of students (96.5%) strongly agreed with the statement “I believe coming to school every day is important”, however this belief decreased to 94.7% in the post-test responses. While not a significant decrease in belief about attendance, it is important to note that the 9th grade transition year is fraught with difficulty, thus having strong beliefs about school attendance will likely result in increased academic performance and decreased discipline referrals.
For the 2019 cohort, referrals for unexcused absences increased by 0.79% between the first and second semester. Counselors discussed one possible reason for this increase is that the community is a popular Spring Break destination, for up to five weeks. Students’ focus is changed by the enticing and easily accessible activities.
Although we targeted students with poor attendance in RTI lessons, counselors felt a need to offer lessons targeting attendance more frequently throughout the year. LHHS will include specific attendance lessons in future Knight Time classes to ensure all students hear the message, in a consistent manner, from staff. Counselors plan to address the attendance concerns with parents, which will include articles (posted on social media) regarding the impact of attendance, parent conferences, and the newly developed “Coffee with Counselors” sessions scheduled for the 2016-2017 school year. LHHS will also implement a “Strive for Less than 5” campaign to increase our attendance rates.
The second lesson also targeted unexcused absences for the 2019 cohort. Counselors believed it is important that freshmen understand how to set goals and the significance of setting achievable goals throughout high school. J.W. Atkinson’s Theory of Achievement Motivation (1957) and Deci & Ryan Self-Determination Theory (1985) state the most motivational goal is one that is not too difficult, but also not too easy and aligns with students’ own personal interests. Based upon data from this lesson, few students knew how to set short (19%) or long-term (54%) goals, but reported in the post-test were better at setting goals (72% and 83%, respectively). Initially 45% of students noted that they did not believe they could achieve their goals, but by the post-test, 81% felt they could achieve a goal. This lesson had students create a goal specific to academic achievement, but not an attendance goal. Counselors missed an opportunity to directly address in this lesson. In the future, the lesson will include importance of attendance and students will write an attendance goal.
The third lesson highlighted the second program goal targeting academic achievement for the 2017 cohort. Earlier in the semester, counselors reviewed transcripts with juniors during the Career Center visit lessons and discussed strategies to improve grades. According to Dr. Gail Matthews (2013), psychology professor at Dominica University in California, one is 42% more likely to achieve a goal just by writing it down. With this in mind, students were directed to write a goal specific to academic improvement, during this lesson, Sixty-three percent (63%) of the 2017 cohort completed the goal statement. At the end of the year, the overall GPA for this cohort increased by 0.24, from 2.66 to 2.9. This particular lesson is effective and counselors will continue with lessons regarding goal setting.
All of these lessons link the Counseling Department’s vision and mission, as well as, the school’s mission: to implement a culture of educational excellence in which ALL students will be academically and personally prepared for the challenges of continuing education and workforce and develop responsible citizens.
Throughout the year, counselors meet to ensure lessons are being delivered optimally and if revisions are necessary. This review guarantees all students benefit from the comprehensive counseling program and the best possible services.