REVISED SECTION: In looking at the data of students who failed two or more classes in the first quarter, 9 students were identified; all 9 were black or Hispanic. These students became our closing the gap group. This reflects the data from our school improvement plan, which showed that there was a significant proficiency gap (see Section 3 Program Goals for this data). The counselor worked with these nine students in two small groups, one with six students and one with three students.
The academic achievement unit that the counselor used in the small group sessions covered several important academic success skills: study skills and habits, awareness and application of learning styles, goal-setting, time management skills, monitoring of grades and progress, organization, stress relief and test anxiety strategies, and test-taking skills. Based on information from the Student Learning Center at the University of California Berkeley, these skills are essential to being a successful student, and can be learned and practiced by students to improve their academic achievement. A survey of the students, the students’ parents, and consultation with their teachers indicated that they needed support in gaining these academic success skills. A copy of the survey is included.
Individual counseling sessions were also provided to students to check in on their grades and discuss behavior and attendance issues that detract from academic success. They benefited from the group setting, but also needed the extra attention of the one-on-one setting because it the counselor could provide more personalized feedback and better meet the students’ individual needs.
The counselor reached out to parents through a survey to gather parents’ perceptions of their student’s strengths and challenges at school, with plans to communicate with parents over the course of the group to share their child’s progress. In the future, it would be good to expand the communication with parents to include providing resources to help their child do homework and study at home and providing a parent session to teach academic success skills so that they could better support their child at home.
Our school counseling intern acted as a guest speaker and shared his experience of growing up as a member of a minority group and in a disadvantaged situation. He explained how he took advantage of different opportunities in his life and became very successful. These students were able to relate to our intern’s life story, and it inspired them to put forth more effort in their studies and to set goals for their own lives.
The content and the activities of the group lessons and the individual counseling were effective in helping to raise six of the nine students’ grades to passing and to maintain passing grades. On the student post-survey, students reported that being able to see their grades at each meeting was very helpful. In the future, it would be a good idea to make sure all students know how to check their grades and to provide opportunities for students to do so, including working with teachers to incorporate the practice of checking grades into their lessons frequently and for counselors to incorporate this practice into individual counseling sessions as often as possible.
The outcome data for this group (grades) was very accurate and was a good measure of the effectiveness of our group, and would be helpful to continue to use in the future. The parent perception data (survey results) were less accurate because some surveys were not returned. In the future, it would be helpful to gather parent information through an interview, to get more information and to strengthen parent-school communication. The results from this group show that teaching academic success skills can help most students raise their failing grades. This type of group can help us target ASCA Mindsets 2, 4, 5, and 6 and Behaviors B-LS 3, B-LS 6, B-LS 7, B-LS 8, B-SMS 5, B-SMS 6, and B-SS 9. Because of the positive results of the group, we can be certain that the Mindsets and Behaviors we targeted were effectively mastered.
Both the group sessions and the individual sessions helped the majority of the students and should continue in the future. It may not be feasible to run a group all year, but it would be beneficial to continue individual check-ins throughout the year to reinforce the skills they have learned, to provide regular feedback to them, and to continue to help them master academic success skills. The use of a peer tutoring system would also be beneficial.