West Millbrook (2018)

Raleigh, NC

Closing the Gap

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.

Goal: Sixth Grade students with two or more failing grades after the first quarter, will increase their grade by 15% by the end of the 2nd quarter.

Target Group: African American and Hispanic Students with 2 or more Failing Grades after the 1st Quarter

Data Used to Identify Students: Final grades for all classes on the first quarter report card.

School Counselor(s): Greta Kimel

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): Domain: Academic, Mindset 2; Self-confidence in ability to succeed, Mindset 6: Positive attitude toward work and learning, Behavior LS.3: Use time-management, organizational and study skills, Behavior LS.7: Identify long- and short-term academic, career, and social/emotional goals, Behavior SMS.6: Demonstrate ability to overcome barriers to learning, Behavior SS.2: Create positive and supportive relationships with other students

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: Students participated in a small group focused on academic success. The students also participated in individual counseling focused on their academic struggles and on learning academic success skills. Students also worked with the school counseling intern (who is a black male and to whom the students related really well), who was able to speak with the students from his own experience of the consequences of not succeeding in school. A survey was sent home to parents at the beginning of the group to allow parents to express their concerns about their child's education and academic skills.

Process Data (Number of students affected): 9 students participated in 2 small groups focused on academic success

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): 8 of the 9 students in the groups completed a self-evaluation at the end of the group. 7 of the 8 students said they would recommend this group to other kids. 4 of the 8 students identified doing their homework as a way to improve the things in school that are still difficult after the group.

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): 4 of the 9 increased at least one of their failing grades by 15% by the end of the 2nd quarter, and 2 more increased at least one of their failing grades by 15% by the end of the 3rd quarter. 3 of the 6 students who increased their grades increased 2 of their failing grades by 15%. None of the students who increased one or more grades by 15% fell back to a failing grade by the end of 3rd quarter.

Implications: The skills taught in the group and the attention given to these students helped most of them increase their failing grades. The results of the activities we completed successfully addressed the Mindsets and Behaviors we were targeting for most of our students in the group, and suggest that these activities would be helpful to continue in the future. More frequent individual check-ins with students would be helpful after the group concludes to ensure they are maintaining the success they saw in the group. Also, expanding the group of students who are involved in these interventions to include students who failed one class (instead of just those who failed two classes) would be helpful in improving the academic success of more of our students. One piece of data from parents that would have been helpful would be information about their children's study habits so that we can teach better home study habits and work with parents to implement those skills at home. Also, it would be helpful to identify students who are coming from the elementary school with poor academic skills and to begin working with them at the beginning of the year instead of waiting until the end of the first quarter to identify them and begin working with them. One thing to think about in the future is how to support the students who did not meet the goal of the group and who did not show improvement in their grades. Some of those students had formerly received special education services, but did not receive them in 6th grade, which may have had an impact. Collaboration with the special education department would be helpful in supporting those students. Also, more collaboration with families to engage them in their children's academic success would be helpful.