Small group responsive services have played a key role in the Burke School Counseling Program for a long time and it is important that I build a curriculum supporting student’s mental and emotional needs so they can access academic curriculum. I led five small group sessions that ran at least four sessions long. The topics were diversified and aligned with the ASCA Mindsets, Behaviors, and Competencies, with many of them focusing on developing the whole self, self-motivation, and demonstrating self-discipline and coping skills.
I met with the clinical team at the beginning of the year and I decided my small groups should target 8th graders to create opportunities for them to build skills to transition to high school, although some 7th graders on Tier II for behavioral referrals did receive RI behavioral intervention on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 7th graders would continue to have weekly homeroom groups with their assigned clinicians, large group counseling groups, and one-on-one support as needed. 8th grade student needs were identified through a social emotional learning survey, and by analyzing grades, teacher reports, and behavioral referrals at the end of the 2016 year with administration. The data showed overwhelming evidence that 8th graders grades tended to go down and behavioral referrals go up due to anxiety over end of the year testing, and high school transition meetings. All group topics were selected based on the social emotional survey given at the beginning of the year and from numerous meetings with the Responsive Instruction team, administration, and clinical team at Burke School. The small group topics selected were Anger Management, Coping Skills, Resiliency and Goal Setting, Social Skills, and Study Skills. Students who were identified as behaviorally at risk for being on Tier II for behavioral referrals were invited to participate in the Anger Management, Coping Skills, and Goal Setting/Resiliency Group. Some 8th graders who struggle with reading and received a D or F in a core subject at the end of the year last year participated in the Study Skills Group (Closing the Gap Group).
I led the Coping Skills group with one of our social workers and I developed the lessons based on the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors that focused on self-discipline, effective coping strategies, and building positive relationships with peers and adults. The group met every Thursday morning during 1st period for about eight weeks. The perception data results for the Coping Skills Group were particularly strong. After the group, the post-test revealed that 100 % of group participants increased their knowledge of what the C-O-P-E formula is and what each letter means. One student even reported “this is an easy formula to remember and can help me when I feel like I want to blow up.” I decided to focus on the results for questions three and five since questions two and four were just prep questions to three and five. Questions three and five on the Coping Skills Group pre and post-test focused on identifying strengths and coping skills. On the pre-test, students identifed an average of one strength and 1.5 coping skills. After the group, all students in the group identifed at least two or more strengths and coping skills which shows a change in attitude towards what they believe about themeselves. The outcome data shows that the Coping Skills Group did help two students significantly reduce their behavioral referrals 2nd semester by over 20 %. The other two students increased their behavioral referrals, one student significantly by 135 %.
Again, this behavioral referral increase speaks to the significant stress our 8th graders experience through high school transition meetings, tests, and upcoming change. Data shows that I need to offer more coping skills groups at the end of the year and I need to create a small group focusing on what 8th graders can expect in their transition meetings to high school and offer this group at the beginning, middle and end of the yeart to front load student expectations. For our more at-risk students, there needs to be more clinical support available to them individually and even in the home. I will meet with our clinical team and administration mid-year to start identifying students who are showing signs of needing more clinical support to address their mental health needs at school, and even at home before their behavior referrals increase significantly at the end of the year.