Southwood Middle School (2017)

Palmetto Bay, FL


Small Group Responsive Services

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.

Group Name: Building a Community - Girl Chat

Goal: By May 2016, the number of discipline referrals involving “teasing, name calling or the use of profanity” toward another student will decrease by 40% from 11 in the 2014-2015 school year to 7 or less during the 2015-2016 school year.

Target Group: Students who are at risk of receiving or have received referrals due to display(s) of instigative behavior (name-calling, teasing, etc.).

Data Used to Identify Students: Semester 1 (quarter 1 and 2) administration and counselor referrals due to instigative behavior.

School Counselor(s): V. Kostovski

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): Domain: Social/Emotional; B-SS 2, B-SS 9

Outline of Group Sessions Delivered: Session 1: Introduction/Respecting Similarities and Differences Session 2: Name Calling; Creating a Supportive Atmosphere Session 3: Diversity and Beliefs Session 4: Stereotypes; The Impact of Unfairly Judging People Session 5: The Impact of Misinformation and Rumors Session 6: Negative Effects of Prejudice.

Process Data (Number of students affected): 5 students in 6th grade 6 students in 7th grade Mix group of grades 6 and 7: 11 students

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): Verbal activity evaluation or reflective journaling at the end of each session to monitor learning, understanding, and gather participants’ opinions regarding the value of the lesson. Lesson 1 - Who Am I? Verbal/Oral Evaluation: Ask students the following questions: - After participating in this activity, do you believe there is an effect on the school’s overall atmosphere when there is persistent name-calling and teasing happening in our school? (9 out 11 girls or 82% said yes) - After completing this lesson, are you able to identify ways of communicating without name-calling? (10 out of 11 girls or 91% said yes) - Do you think you have learned constructive ways of resolving conflicts due to rumors and name-calling? (11 out of 11 girls or 100% said yes) Lesson 2: Name Calling Verbal/Oral Evaluation: - Do you think as a result of this lesson, you are able to identify common emotions when being a called a name? (10 out of 11 girls or 91% said yes) - After completing this activity, are you able to identify ways of communicating without name-calling? (11 out of 11 girls or 100% said yes) - After participating in this session, are you able to identify constructive ways of resolving conflicts due to rumors and name-calling? (9 out 11 girls or 82% said yes) Lesson 3: Diversity of Beliefs and Values Verbal/Oral Evaluation: After completing this session, do you think it is likely that people can change their opinions on topics like the ones presented in this lesson? (10 out of 11 girls or 91% said yes) If so, what kinds of things are likely to cause opinions to change? (discussion) Lesson 4: Stereotypes Reflective Journaling Evaluation: Close this lesson by having students write in their journal about a stereotype that is held about a group to which they belong. Students will consider the following in their writing: the stereotype that is commonly held about their group their feelings upon hearing this stereotype ways that the stereotype limits or hurts them or others who belong to the group ways that people might learn new information so as to not ignore individual differences that might exist among members of the group (discussion – 100% of students were able to answer) Lesson 5: Misinformation and Rumors Journal Reflection Evaluation: At the end of the activity, ask students “Do you think this lesson helped you understand the meaning of the word ‘rumor’? Explain how you think this lesson helped you understand that some rumors get started innocently. (discussion – 100% of students were able to answer) Lesson 6: Prejudice Verbal/Oral Evaluation: Do you think that after participating in these counseling sessions, that you learned that there are people or groups of people in this school or community who feel excluded? (11 out of 11 girls or 100% said yes) - Do you understand how everyone is hurt when some people are made to feel excluded? (9 out 11 girls or 82% said yes)

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): There was an overall reduction in indoor suspensions for the school as well as referrals for instigative behavior. From the 11 students that participated in the small group, 2 received a referral for instigative behavior during the first semester. During the second semester 3 students received a referral for instigative behavior. The school’s overall number of referrals was reduced from 169 to 126, a difference of 43 or (25%) and the referrals for investigative behavior was reduced in the targeted students from 11 to 5 or (54%), therefore we met and exceeded our goal.

Implications: By building positive identities and a respect for diversity, our perception and outcome data indicated that we achieved our goal to empower targeted students to create a more positive learning environment for themselves and their peers. The small group activities are evidenced-based and, by design, support our program goal by providing students with an opportunity to recognize how diverse perspectives influence the ways in which people view and respond to conflict. Furthermore, the lessons encouraged group participants to reflect and consider their rights, challenges and responsibilities as well as their role in creating a respectful community. As outcome data shows, the small group was successful in reducing not only instigative referrals but also school wide behavioral/discipline referrals. Based on the data collected, it would seem like addressing incidents of teasing, name calling, and profanity at the beginning of the school year will help in reducing those behaviors in the long term and changing the school culture. Early intervention appears to be key. By analyzing our process, perception and outcome data, we learned that implementation of “Building a Community” lessons fostered respect and good-decision-making among our students. For this reason, among others, this group should be replicated next year with modifications as needed to fit the new students’ needs. Additionally, since the lessons had a significant impact on student behavior, as evidenced by our data, we will plan to spiral several of these lessons into our character development and citizenship classroom guidance lessons next year. This will serve as a preventative measure as well as ensure a comprehensive school counseling program for all students.