At the high school level, there is often less room for small group counseling than in younger grades where Counselors are a “special” or class built into students schedules. At Vernon Malone, this has been something we have been working to implement and expand throughout the years. Attendance is a large responsibility of the SAP Counselor, and, therefore, Linwaun Fulton has been able to work with this group each year. In 2016-2017, we had the opportunity to implement more small-group counseling and truly grow our program to meet student need.
The two new groups for the year were a Social Skills group, a Organization & Study Skills group. The first of the new groups, our Social Skills group, was introduced to meet the needs of our growing Special Education population, specifically targeting our students with Autism who elected to participate in this lunch bunch. This group was developed in response to our student population, as well as our Student Services and School Improvement goals related to graduation rates. For this population, we worked with the Special Education Department, as well as the School Psychologist to decide how to best meet the needs of this group. We believe that creating a positive social environment for all students is vital to their success. We found it difficult to collect outcome data on this group, as students were able to opt-in and opt-out of each meeting and, therefore, participation was inconsistent. Student Services will work with students’ Case Managers to recommend participation in the group, and set goals as part of the IEP process in order to collect appropriate outcome data.
The small-group represented in this application is the Organization & Study Skills group. It was implemented as a way to streamline a procedure for working with students who were struggling with these fundamental skills. As can be seen in the Closing-the-Gap programming, we have an increased focus on Intervention. However, not all students require intensive response. By honing these skills together, we hoped to see improvement in a group of students at the same time.
Students were invited to participate in the group based on grades, teacher recommendations/referrals, and a few who reached out to Student Services about participating in the group. Students met once every 1-2 weeks in the second quarter [incorrectly stated as second “semester” on original document]. Students worked to organize their agendas, work in groups, and learn to prioritize their time. This program was designed to meet the assigned Mindsets & Behaviors in order for students to take responsibility for their learning now and in the future. During the relocation following Hurricane Matthew, specifically, we were also able to focus on our freshmen students who were in 3 semester classes and 2 year-long courses.
In reviewing the results report at the end of the Fall semester, we found the information very useful in making decisions to discontinue this program for the time being. We noted little to no changes in attitude following participation in the program. Most students were able to pass the course, but the majority of students still received grades below 70%. With these results, we believe that the timing of this group fell too late for some students to improve their grades for the Fall semester. Additionally, we now believe that working on these skills in the small-group format may not have provided the most honest feedback and self-evaluations from these specific students. In response, we chose not to continue this group in the Spring semester. Rather, students worked through the intervention referral process, as necessary, and received individual support for this skills. In the future, we hope to continue an organization and study skills groups for students identified by teachers within the first month of school. This program will be more beneficial as a proactive skills group, rather than a reactive intervention.