After examining the data from attendance reports, standardized testing results, office discipline referrals, teacher surveys, and holding discussions with administration, the YESS team, and the School Counseling Advisory Board, we selected topics for the small groups. These groups include topics of organization, study skills, focus/attention, anxiety, friendship, families in change, sibling support, as well as grief and loss. Each of these topics have surfaced as a need in our building from the discussions and meetings previously listed. Decisions were also based upon the developmental needs of students in the group while maintaining a focus on our vision and mission. As noted in the supporting documents, a significant number of students were referred by parents and/or teachers as candidates for small group sessions. The climate of Evans City Elementary School promotes and supports small group referrals, and students are usually excited to be included in the groups. Before groups begin, I send a newsletter to parents and teachers explaining the topics, goals, activities and timeline for the groups. Students are included in a group unless parents’ revoke permission. Our parent permission rate for support groups is 99%.
To support our third counseling goal, to improve academic achievement among the targeted fourth grade students, an academic achievement group was designed and delivered. Parents, teacher and administrators strongly urged that this goal be fully addressed. During the 2015-2016 school year, eight fourth grade students participated in a group. Each student’s classroom teacher set goals for students to work toward in the small group. Each teacher assessed the student’s achievement of stated goals and provided the counselor with weekly reports on each student. Results from periodic teacher surveys and student interviews indicated an improvement in the students’ perception of positive academic behaviors. These include goal setting, efficient use of academic planner, organizational skills, maintaining focus, among others. Both teachers and students felt that the goal setting process helped to focus students between group sessions, and that the weekly check-ins with the counselor also proved to be a positive strategy.
As a result of their participation in the small group, 100% of the students’ perception increased from the pretest to posttest on study skills. While all showed perception growth, the ELA results of the PSSA showed that 4 students met the goal of a 3-point increase and 4 students did not meet the goal. 1 of these students stayed the same and three students went down. With this in mind, we learned that The PSSA tests were significantly different with much more rigor from 3rd grade to 4th grade on the demand of open ended questions (i.e. TDQ-Text Dependent Questions vs. TDA-Text Dependent Analysis). Also there was a considerable difference in the number of questions on each grade’s test. 1 student who dropped was also absent and suspended often during the year missing a lot of instruction time.
When sharing these results with the advisory board we realized that though the curriculum of the group was helpful to the students, both from their perspective and their teachers’ perspective, the goal was too specific. We also determined that for the LA report card grades, the same concepts are not being compared from the 1st and 4th quarter of the school year. Each quarter is different unit of writing and though a student may have a firm grasp of one concept in the year’s curriculum, does not mean they will have the same grasp on other parts of the curriculum. Moving forward in future groups, the PSSA goal will be much broader with a focus in an entire subject area, and rather than comparing report card grades, we can compare grades overall or within the same unit of writing.
As a whole, this cohort of students did develop important skills necessary for ongoing academic success and achievement. By making the few changes listed above, our hope is that a future group would make even more progress with more effective tracking. In addition, the groups targeting organization, focus/attention, anxiety, friendship, families in change, sibling support, and grief and loss showed growth across the board from pretest to posttests. Group topics will continue to be assessed and determined from year to year.