There were a variety of group topics that were implemented at Williamstown Elementary during the 2015-2016 school year. The group topics that were implemented for Williamstown Elementary students throughout the school year focused on the academic, behavioral and social-emotional topics. Groups were formed based on the results of needs assessments, teacher request, or the analysis of data. For example, attendance reports were used to identify students who had missed 3 or more days of school in the first academic quarter of the school year. As a result, three grade-level groups were formed during the 2015-2016 academic school year one for 1st, one for 3rd, and split level group which included 4th and 5th graders to address the issues behind students’ poor attendance. Sarah Castlen delivered this specific intervention because Kasey Mason was not hired until mid-February of 2016, after the goals had been designed and interventions created to target student needs and to fulfill the goals.
These groups utilized the School Attendance Matters Curriculum, a 6-week program where students met with the counselor once a week, for 4 consecutive weeks. This curriculum focused on why school attendance matters for their current academic careers, as well as for their future academic careers, individual responsibility and routine development, and social benefits for attending school.
The attendance group's purpose was tied directly to our second counseling program goal two: All students in grades K-5 identified as having 3 or more absences by the end of the first nine weeks (who have not been hospitalized) will receive Tier Two small group counseling interventions during the second nine weeks of school in order to improve their attendance rate by 10%. This group also connected to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors. This group was designed to enable students to build self-confidence in the ability to succeed. Students were given the opportunity to assume responsibility for their own attendance. Specific lessons were designed to teach time management and routines. The group also focused on building a positive attitude to their work, as well as positive relationships with adults and peers.
This group was comprehensive in scope because it emphasized academic success and habits at home, making a great home-to-school connection. The group was developmentally appropriate because it was in easy to understand language, had colorful characters and drawings, and was focused specifically on elementary-aged students.
The school counselor had three tier 2 counseling groups (1st grade -3 students, 3rd grade-3 students, and a combined 4th and 5th grade-4 students). The groups had 10 total students (7 males and 3 females) who received the School Attendance Matters curriculum. The groups met once a week for 30 minute sessions for 6 consecutive weeks.
As a result of the group, we saw a significant increase in areas where students developed routines. Specifically, there were large increases in the areas of "I do the same thing every morning before I go to school" and "I know what to do when I come back from missing school". There was also a significant decrease in students feeling as though it was "hard" to come to school and not coming to school because "I don't feel like it.”
As a whole, the pre-test data showed that students didn’t do the same routine every morning, sometimes they didn’t come to school because they didn’t feel like it, and felt like it was hard to come to school. On the other hand, the post-test data from the whole group showed an increase in students getting into a routine before coming to school, an increase in knowing what to do when they miss school, and getting enough sleep at night for school. As a whole, there was a decrease in coming to school because students didn’t feel like it and students had a hard time coming to school.
The outcome data showed that in the first semester, these students missed a total of 93 days of school. In the second semester, these students had only missed a total of 78.5 days. The data shows that there was a 15.6% reduction in absences after this intervention was put into effect. In the future the small group intervention could be expanded to include additional grades and populations. Also, strategies for increasing involvement by a caretaker at home would be an interesting approach to addressing some of the variables outside of the control of the student. These groups were effective and will be replicated in future years.