Every year, we offer groups that align with our program goals and student needs. The school counselors work collaboratively to determine who has the most interest, experience, and knowledge to effectively facilitate each group. In 2014-15, we offered groups related to divorce/separation, healthy dating relationships, and grief but the 2015-16 needs assessment did not reveal a need for responsive small group counseling in those areas. Our needs assessment revealed that 50% of seniors identified stress management and 36% identified fear of making mistakes as issues that the school counseling department should address. Therefore, we created a stress management/perfectionism group for seniors that focused on self-care, self-acceptance, and stress management strategies. Students participating in this group experienced on average a 38% decrease in stress and progressed from high to average stress level (as evidenced on the Perceived Stress Scale).
We offer CAMPUS every year, a college readiness group for first-generation college students. Upon completion of the CAMPUS group, students reported feeling better prepared to handle the high school challenges. In 2016-17, our school introduced AVID, a comprehensive college readiness program that requires students take a course to learn success skills and engage in college preparatory activities. Given that the goals and resources associated with AVID not only include the goals of CAMPUS but also expand upon them, we determined through discussion with our administration that AVID would replace CAMPUS.
In considering our school’s 2020 Vision to promote high achievement among our vulnerable learners, we established two new small groups in 2015-16. The first is Freshmen Seminar, a small group of 9th grade students identified by the middle school as being vulnerable in the transition to high school. These students were invited to attend a “boot camp” for three days the summer before their freshman year. During this boot camp, the school counselors implemented lessons on study skills, goal-setting, organizational strategies, time management, and brought the students on a tour of a local university. The success of this “boot camp” continued as a Freshmen Seminar small group as the participants began their freshman year. Group sessions included lessons focused on resiliency, motivation, communication, and goal setting. The second group is SDV 100, a dual-enrollment course that focuses on the development of student success skills. SDV 100 consisted of 11th grade students taking their first AP course who experienced academic difficulty in the 1st quarter. We feel that promoting high achievement among our vulnerable learners should not only be about encouraging students to take AP and honors courses, but also instilling confidence in their ability to achieve excellence in these courses. Given the number of students participating in SDV 100, we divided participants into three small groups, each led by a different school counselor. While we did not meet our SDV 100 goal for 90% of students to earn a final grade C or higher in each of their courses, there was an 11.5% increase in the number of students who earned all C’s or higher (46.2% at 1st quarter compared to 57.7% at final grade) and 65.4% of students experienced an increase in their GPA from 1st quarter to final current year GPA. Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback and results we received from our SDV 100 group, we will be continuing this group in the future.
Overall, each of our groups resulted in positive outcomes. The students who participated in groups reported having positive experiences, and results indicate that we were effective in achieving progress toward our goals. One of the challenges we perennially face when initiating group counseling is that some of our students express interest but decline participation reporting that they are worried about missing instructional class time. Although we rotate group sessions so that students will never miss a specific class more than once in a quarter, we will work to identify other times we may offer group that wouldn’t impact a student’s class attendance. In addition, we will work to encourage students to consider how the group’s goals may help them to achieve other goals and experience greater academic success.