Downers Grove South High School (2017)

Downers Grove, IL

Academic Achievement
Career Development
College Readiness
Postsecondary Preparation

Closing the Gap

The Counseling and Student Support Services Department (CSSS) at DGS became aware of a gap between seniors who receive free/reduced lunch (FRL) and those who do not. The population of FRL students has increased in our building over the last several years. Fifteen years ago, 5% of our students were FRL. Now, the population is over 30%, which has increased equally across racial and ethnic groups.

During a department meeting at the conclusion of the 2015 school year, we reviewed the Senior Exit Survey, Illinois Youth Survey, intervention statistics, and other pertinent student performance data to identify gaps to address in the upcoming school year. At the beginning of every school year, we, along with our Advisory Council, prioritize identified gaps and form our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to address identified gaps. The PLC work consists of gathering more in depth data to learn about barriers faced by students, create interventions and monitoring plans, and review perception, process, and outcome data at the end of the school year.

The PLC created to address the identified gap asked the following research question: Is there a gap between the percentage of FRL and Non-FRL students reporting that they have no plans or are undecided about their plans after high school graduation? It was discovered that the percentage of students not receiving free-or-reduced cost lunches who reported being undecided/no plans after high school was 5%, while the percentage of students receiving free-or-reduced cost lunches who reported being undecided/no plans after high school was 15%. There was a 10% gap between the two groups in having post-secondary plans. Students who received FRL were 10% more likely that non-FRL students to be undecided or have no plans after high school.

The PLC created a forum that highlighted an 8-student alumni panel. The alumni on the panel were all students that had been in the FRL program during their senior years and had matriculated to 2 and 4 year colleges/universities. The forum began with each student sharing their personal story of getting to college and how they traversed their financial barriers. The counselors provided a summary of the FAFSA process, and highlighted how students can apply and receive financial assistance. The counselors gave an overview of 3 + 1 programs that afford students the ability to start degree programs at the junior college with guaranteed admission to 4 yr. schools, therefore saving thousands of dollars in tuition costs. Students were also given information on the military, tech schools, and certificate programs at the community college. Soon after the forum, counselors followed up with their assigned FRL seniors who did not attend the forum to learn about their absence and to review the information provided. Counselors continued to meet with their FRL seniors individually to provide support and information, and encourage them to take steps toward creating a post-secondary plan.

Unfortunately, our Closing-the-Gap data indicated that we did not meet our goal of increasing post-secondary planning amongst FRL students by 10%. After our interventions, the gap existing between FRL and non-FRL students having post-secondary plans grew from 10% to 14%. Of important note in this data set is that both FRL and non FRL students increased in being undecided with regards to their post-secondary plans. The percentage of students not receiving FRL who reported being undecided or having no plans after high school grew from 5% to 8%.

Although we were disappointed in not seeing improvement in our Closing-the-Gap goal, we learned even more about the data set that raised additional questions. Overall, it looked as if the Class of 2016 experienced greater uncertainty about post-secondary plans. The fact that this trend impacted the FRL students to a great degree is indicative of other economic indicators that have a similar correlated impact on those experiencing financial hardships.

In conclusion, counselors felt this was a worthwhile endeavor as we learned a great deal about how financial barriers affect students in the FRL program even more significantly than other students. As a result, we are generating a number of other possible interventions to be used in the 2016-17 school year in addition to what we did in 2015-16. These include hosting financial assistance workshops during the school day, getting information to families earlier about our financial aid/college finance programs, and plans to engage with parents/guardians of identified FRL students with greater intensity about the importance of having well-devised post-secondary plans.

Goal: 1. By June 2016, seniors who receive Free/Reduced Fee lunch and/or Fee Waivers will report an increase in post-secondary planning by 10% as compared those who received Free/Reduced Fee lunch and/or Fee Waivers in the class of 2015

Target Group: Economically disadvantaged seniors

Data Used to Identify Students: 15-16 FRL Data and Naviance post-secondary outcome data

School Counselor(s): Amy Klug, Kanagavel Vetri, Terry Tiesman, Jenny Franz, Tiffany Rojszyk, Paul Maggiore, Tim Christy, Kate Gavin, Cory Rasho, Anita Carpenter, Laurie Blei

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, BLS1, BLS3, BLS4, BLS7, BLS9, BSMS1, BSMS5, BSMS6, BSMS7, BSMS10, BSS3, BSS8, BSS9

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: Post-secondary Forum - All seniors meeting FRL criteria invited to attend post-secondary planning forum. Forum consisted of alumni also meeting FRL qualification sharing their stories and how they overcame their financial barriers to realize their post-secondary goals. Individual counselor meetings – Counselors met with students who did not attend the forum to give them necessary information. Additional individual follow-ups occurred as students and counselors created a post-secondary plan before the end of the year.

Process Data (Number of students affected): 176 seniors were identified for the intervention. 30 students attended the Forum Event. All 176 students met individually with their counselor for post-secondary planning.

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): FRL Forum Survey Data: 100% of students Agreed or Strongly Agreed that the Forum helped them understand what their post-secondary options were. 100% of students Agreed or Strongly Agreed that the Form helped them understand their post-secondary options. 100% of students felt as if they knew their post-secondary options following the Forum. Senior Exit Survey Data: 78% of students classified as FRL had post- secondary plans at the end of April. 92% of students classified as non-FRL had post- secondary plans at the end of April. Baseline data: Students who receive FRL are 10% more likely to be undecided or have no plans after high school graduation. Post Data: After the intervention, the number increased to 14%.

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): The 2015 average Senior non-weighted GPA for FRL students was 2.53 and the average weighted GPA was 2.58 The 2016 average Senior non-weighted GPA for FRL students was 2.46 and weighted was 2.7 The 2016 average non-weighted GPA for all seniors was 2.85 and the average weighted GPA was 2.99

Implications: Initially, we were disappointed with the data results as we did not meet our goal and it appeared as if more FRL students did not have plans and post-secondary plans than the year before. We have used this data as a primary reflection point for the 2016-17 school year to see if we can continue to learn about this equity gap and how we can prevent it from occurring. We will continue to research intervention options available to address this issue.