Through small group responsive services the vision, mission and goals of our counseling department are supported by utilizing achievement, attendance and behavioral data as well as input from administrators, parents and students to identify students in need of extra support. Topics were selected to help increase student achievement and close achievement gaps as identified in our annual school counseling goals. For example, our goal to reduce disciplinary referrals by 40% was targeted by providing an intervention group that addressed the specific issue of female students who had a documented history of name-calling and teasing behavior. The counselors utilized lessons that focused on respecting differences in people, creating a supportive atmosphere, learning about the unfairness of judging people and consequences of misinformation and rumors. Additionally, to support student achievement and reach our goals to increase the attendance rate and reduce the number of retained students, counselors delivered small group intervention to students who received one or more failing grades in their core subjects and who are at-risk for delayed graduation. These small groups focused on goal setting, time management, organizational skills, academic planning and calculating final grades.
After topics were determined, we analyzed our ASCA Planning Tool and selected mindsets/behaviors that matched each group’s purpose. Next, we utilized data to identify students who would benefit from additional support. The counselors considered the most appropriate means to deliver services and selected students who would be best served through small-group intervention. Prior to the first/introductory group sessions, counselors met and screened students to confirm that the group experience would be the most effective intervention strategy.
Ms. Kostovski facilitated the social/emotional group whose focus was to reduce “instigative” (name-calling and teasing) behavior. This provided her with the opportunity to utilize the strategies she learned at sessions she attended during the 2015 ASCA Conference. She provided six group lessons on similarities/differences, stereotypes, prejudice, rumors, and diversity to eleven female students. The lessons ranged from September to December 2015 with group or individual follow-ups as needed throughout the year. The results in June indicated that we surpassed our goal to reduce disciplinary referrals and therefore we will repeat this group next year if data indicates a need.
Our counseling team was instrumental in providing academic small group intervention. Mrs. Hall has a wealth of academic advisement experience and she collaborates and plans with our neighboring high schools. Mrs. Kostovski was a former high school counselor and is seasoned in helping students develop academic plans. We planned together during these academically focused small groups “To High School and Beyond”. One hundred twenty nine students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade participated in six lessons led by the grade level counselor. Additionally, we delivered “Reach Higher” small groups after analyzing the Early Warning System Report (EWS) that identifies students at-risk of dropping out of school. This group was developed to close the gap between these students and students who do not show warning signs. Eight sessions were delivered from October 2015 to January 2016. The sessions focused on academic success, learning styles, college/career planning, developing SMART goals, and the importance of attendance. After final grades posted, data revealed that we were successful in achieving this goal. As a result, this group will be offered throughout the year next year.
Our process, perception and outcome data confirms our belief that small group responsive services have a significant and positive impact on student achievement, attendance and behavior. By utilizing data sources we were able to identify students who need support and provide prevention and intervention groups. These encouraging results led us to the conclusion that to enhance our program and become even more effective than we were this year, that next year we conduct a school-wide needs assessment (to include both teachers and students) to utilize as an additional data source when determining our school topics and participants . Also, our Building a Community “Girl Group” was instrumental in supporting our goal to reduce behavioral referrals and there was an additional benefit that the small intervention had a positive impact on the school culture. This is driving our organization and focus next year towards a heavier emphasis on prevention rather than intervention strategies.