Each year at Francis C. Hammond Middle School, counselors run groups as part of meeting the academic, behavioral and social emotional needs of their students. Counselors collaborate with teachers for their respective grade level and conduct a needs assessment to determine the type of group(s) to be run for a particular semester. Group members/participants are then chosen based upon several criteria, including teacher recommendation, parent request, sometimes outside counselors request and most importantly, data. Once the type of group is determined and members are chosen, counselors then use available data to develop lesson plans appropriate in helping to meet the goal of the group and fulfill the mission of the school counseling department. Our school’s counseling mission is to provide a comprehensive and equitable counseling program to all students that supports personal, social, academic, and college and career development.
During the fall semester of the 2015-2016 school year, multiple counseling groups were conducted at Francis C. Hammond Middle School, each with the goal of helping students improve their academic and social emotional skills. The focus of the highlighted group was academic success. In order to increase student participation and group ownership, students were given an opportunity to come up with a unique name for their group.
Students were selected to participate in the group if they received a “D” or “F” in core subjects during their sixth and seventh grade school years. During this ten week period, counselors focused on topics such as: self-monitoring, advocacy skills, organization, time management, study skills, listening to directions, and the impact of outside factors on academic performance. The group facilitators also monitored student participation in after school support classes. There were a total of 19 students chosen to participate in the fall seventh grade group; ten members in one group and nine in the other. Each group met for forty-five minutes once a week.
The length of each group was ten weeks. Each topic aligned with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors and allowed students to focus on their needs in a supportive, non-threatening way. As the group progressed, counselors began to notice an increase in participation in after school tutoring, better use of organizational skills and improved grades.
The Academic Success Group was considered valuable by both staff and group members. Sixty three percent of group participants demonstrated an increase in grades in at least two core subject areas. Therefore, our target goal of 50% of students participating in a targeted intervention group will increase grades in courses that currently have an “F” by at least one letter grade was met. This data showed that students applied strategies learned throughout their academic day which is also noted in the 11% increase in perception data from the pre and post-test. Through collaboration with teachers, counselors monitored student work habits, interaction with others and academic skills. There was also evidence of increased dedication to academics which included staying after school for extra help. Students were given an after school tutoring form to help them keep track of the core classes in which they sought help; this showed students’ increased desire to do well and improve their academic standing. In addition to the academic improvements, data showed 89% of group participants received fewer discipline referrals compared to the previous year. While 63% of students showed academic improvements, it is important to note that 37% of the group participants did not show growth. For the students who did not make progress, counselors provided wrap around services which included outside counseling, mentoring, gang intervention prevention referrals and/or initiated child study meetings.
As we reflected on the group, counselors realized that it may be beneficial to extend the length of the group. The benefits would include continuing to develop skills necessary for success and a connection to school through peer interactions. Additionally, incorporating these lessons into the school day so all students can have access to the lessons would be beneficial.
In addition to individual counseling, we have always used small group counseling as a tool to help reach more students. We will continue to include all stakeholders in the group process for reasons such as determining the type of group needed and best time to access students. Input from stakeholders ensures less resistance and allows us to do our job more effectively. Counselors at this school will continue to analyze data to support our students' social-emotional and academic needs.