When we looked at our SOL test results, we saw that our Hispanic students are not passing at as high a rate as our other subgroups. For the 2014-2015 reading 7 SOL, our white students passed at 95.7%. Our Hispanic student pass percentage was 75%. This is a discrepancy of over 20%. When we looked quarterly at the students who were on our C- and below list, our Hispanic students were disproportionately represented. 50% of the students on this list were Hispanic, but they represent 11.7% of our overall population.
In previous years we have conducted study skills small groups which included identified Hispanic students who were on our C- or below list. The perception data was always positive, however outcome data showed that the small group did not have a positive impact on their grades.
In a review of research, we repeatedly found that positive relationships within the school setting “provides scaffolding for important social and academic skills” (Baker et al., 2008; O’Connor, Dearing, & Collins, 2011; Silver, Measelle, Armstron, & Essex, 2005), and “gives students a secure base from which students . . . take on academic challenges and work on social-emotional development” (Hamre & Pianta, 2001). Research also showed that there is a relationship between math performance and positive relationships, especially between the transitions to and from middle school (Alexander et al., 1997; Cataldi & KewallRamani, 2009; Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989). Berger, C. (2013) evaluated the impact of small group counseling on underachieving students. The results of the study demonstrated significant improvement in motivation.
Therefore, this year we decided to focus on building positive relationships within our school. We identified Hispanic 7th and 8th grade students who earned a C- or below in any core class during the first quarter of the 2015-2016 school year. With our targeted list of students, we implemented the following interventions:
1. Small group counseling: Focus was on relationships, self-awareness, career education, goal-setting, and honest conversation about what it is like being Hispanic in our school. We utilized a variety of materials to engage the students.
2. Hispanic Family nights: The goal was to build relationships with our Spanish-speaking parents, equip them with information such as how our school is organized, who to contact with questions, how to access online tools, high school transition information, and a celebration of the successes of our Hispanic students. We collaborated with our parent liaison.
3. Active Listening Lesson: Teacher feedback indicated students were not reaching their academic potential due to distraction in the classroom and poor listening skills. This lesson reviewed the important skills needed to properly listen to their teacher and other students
4. Individual Counseling: to follow-up on specific needs brought up during the groups
5. Mentorworks: The purpose of mentoring was for students to have an additional positive relationship within the school building.
6. Penpals: 8th grade students wrote quarterly letters to a penpal from our business partner. This encouraged writing and a positive connection within the academic setting to an adult. In June 2016, our business partner hosted a luncheon so that students could meet their penpals in person.
7. Team meeting discussions: Weekly discussions with students’ teachers to monitor academic and social/emotional progress.
8. Parent contacts: To reinforce the work we were doing with their children, and to get parent feedback
9. Resources for families: We gathered resources for students such as community assistance, loaner computers, mifi’s, and books to read over the summer
We came very close to meeting our goal. 66% (8/12) of our targeted students improved at least one letter grade from a C- or below in a core class between the 1st and 4th quarter. Of the students who participated in our small groups, 85% of students (6/7) made academic improvement based on our criteria. As a result of the outcome and perception data, we will continue the work that we have been doing with our Hispanic students and families, especially the small groups. We would like to form a committee with some of our Hispanic parents and students to brainstorm how to improve relations between our Hispanic students and teachers and other students. We would also like to utilize Hispanic students as newcomer ambassadors. We plan on utilizing a computer program provided by our school district to assist the students with goal-setting, planning for high school and career exploration. We will share our findings with our administration to advocate that our work with Hispanic students and families become part of our school plan.