Small-Group Responsive Services 2015-2016 Narrative
Conducting small groups is a vital part of our Counseling Department. However, as the school grows and more county programs take precedence over class time, our department is met with resistance from teachers to allow students to miss class for anything other than instructional remediation. While we are aware that small groups give us the opportunity to provide specialized services to our students, but are finding less available space to provide this essential service within our program. Typically, our school psychologists and social workers have more flexibility in their schedules and face less opposition when running social and emotional groups. However, we hope that with time and the data we receive from these groups, we will be better able to demonstrate to the entire school population the necessity of counseling groups.
Arlington Public Schools requires that all teachers and counselors submit SMART goals for our professional development portfolio, which can also be used by the county to assess our work. During the 2015-2016 school year, we decided as a department that our small groups should address issues relevant to our school counseling program goals that also aligned with our SMART goals for the county. These groups were run in conjunction with our other year-long groups, including UPSTANDERS and HILT Newcomers.
The academic confidence building groups targeted students who were identified by their teachers as having the potential to take more rigorous courses, but had not yet done so in high school. The purpose of this group was to help students gain knowledge, skills, and the confidence necessary to take intensified or Advanced Placement (AP) courses prior to graduation. The three counselors who decided to run these groups, Kelly Carruthers, Renita Mathis, and Alvin Truesdale, chose to work with 9th and 10th grade students, because doing so gave these students more time to integrate the skills and concepts learned into their academic experience in high school. The counselors also thought that a number of students on their caseloads had the potential to take higher-level classes to stretch themselves academically. After completion of the group, 57 out of the 63 group participants enrolled in at least one or more advanced classes for the 2016-2017 school year—a 90.48% increase.
Mrs. Almada and her intern, Ms. Mosley, decided to run a group focusing on at-risk students, because they noted that a disproportionate number of HILT (English Language Learning) students were at-risk for not graduating. Additionally, Mr. Lopez and Mrs. Almada, our two counselors specializing in HILT, have seen increased enrollment of students new to the country and view groups as a special opportunity to assist these students in making long-term attachments to the school, other students, the surrounding community, and the United States.
The small groups formed during the 2015-2016 academic year reflected our school counseling program goals while also addressing significant gaps between groups. The outcomes of these groups suggest that this form of intervention positively impacts our students’ academic and behavioral performance as well as their emotional well-being in school. It is essential that our small groups continue to be based on the needs of our students and that we elect to run groups that will target students in need of additional counseling services.