At Alvey Elementary, small group topics are selected based on academic data from the prior year, the number of discipline referrals from the prior year, and referrals from classroom teachers, other staff, and families. Topics and group activities align with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors, as well as our program goals.
Each grading period, counselors at Alvey submit a schedule of possible group topics to classroom teachers and other staff members. We ask for group member recommendations based on specific criteria (such as 1st quarter conduct or work habits scores), and communicate the focus and sample activities to staff. Students are also referred for group services from Intervention Team meetings, parent conferences, and self-referrals.
Counselors distribute the groups amongst themselves based on experience or high interest in certain areas. Additionally, we take into consideration each counselor’s schedule when deciding who should lead small groups.
Counselors seek parental permission for group participation by sending a note or email. This note includes the group purpose and specific references for group activities. We find that communicating these specifics makes our families more comfortable with permitting their children to participate in small groups.
For the 2015-2016 school year, counselors established a behavioral program goal to help decrease discipline referrals for all students. Counselors examined conduct report card grades (S+= above average, S=satisfactory, S-=below average, N=needs support/improvement). We felt that we could assist by working with small groups of students identified by classroom teachers as at-risk (via S- or N ratings on their conduct scores) and in need of study skill support. Group members were diverse (from a variety of different subgroups, including some students with disabilities – particularly autism). No Kindergarten students were identified by their teachers as at-risk. Indeed, this is why we did not work with Kindergarten students in formal small groups during the 2015-2016 school year; instead, we worked with them in informal lunch bunches.
We decided that Anne Henry would conduct the majority of social skill small groups, as she was at school more often. Additionally, Pam Freybler didn’t have as much experience with 1st and 5th graders during the 2014-2015 school year, so we decided to have her broaden her experience with Alvey students by working with these small groups. The lesson plans included for one grade level (1st grade as an example) of our K-5 social skill groups indicate clear connections with both developmentally appropriate behavioral, as well as our counseling program goal.
During the group (6 sessions), students learned and practiced the following: identifying feelings, showing care and concern, handling strong feelings, solving problems, and using fair ways to play.
The counselors administered student pretests and post-tests (the summative assessment from each grade level Second Step kit). Group members demonstrated a 17% increase in social skill knowledge, exceeding our goal of 10%. We also took compared 1st quarter report card scores with 4th quarter report card scores. Each grade was assigned a number for ease of analysis (S+=4, S=3, S-=2, N=1). Group members demonstrated a 19% increase in report card conduct scores, exceeding our goal of 10%.
We also took a look at the PWCS student survey questions regarding bullying or behavior. We selected 7 questions (see attached GRIP), and compared 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 4th and 5th Grade answers (as the county does not disaggregate them). We averaged the answers for each year, and we found a 7% increase in satisfaction on PWCS survey questions regarding behavior and bullying.
At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, we compared the amount of discipline referrals to that of the previous year. Group members decreased their discipline referral number by 28%, significantly exceeding our behavioral program goal of 10%. It should be noted that upon disaggregation, we found that some grade levels actually slightly increased their referral number. We thought this may have been due to our more intense focus on Kindergarten and 4th grade, as they received more targeted large group lessons in this area.
We are considering offering these groups with more sessions in the 2016-2017 school year. Additionally, we would love to see some of our classroom teachers use the Second Step program each week. Since the program was initially designed to be used in a large group setting, and teachers have the most access to their students, we feel that this would be a great way to increase the effectiveness of these behavioral lessons.