Small group responsive services provide intensive support to our at-risk students. By using school achievement, attendance, and behavioral data we identified students to target to close the achievement gap. After our groups were planned based on school data, we matched the goals of the groups to the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors Planning Tool in order to fine tune the purpose of each group. We analyzed the grade reports, attendance reports, and test data to identify group members. Then as a counseling department we developed our Small Group Action Plans writing lessons to achieve ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for each target group.
To meet our Counseling department’s 1st goal of closing-the-gap for failing students, students in each grade level were identified to be a part of our academic “Success Groups”. Students who were failing 2 or more core subjects were our target students. Counselors met with each student individually before forming the groups. Success Groups ran throughout the school year after each quarterly report card. Counselors held small group meetings to help students develop organizational skills, study skills, time management, and test-taking tips. Students in the small groups set individual improvement goals. The overarching goal of this intervention was to help all failing students earn promotion to the next grade. Out of 158 students participating throughout the school year, 99% of participants met promotion criteria with only 1 retention for the 2016-2017 school year. Since these small groups were so successful in helping these students prevent retention, we will continue this intervention next school year. One content improvement we will make for next year is to include growth-mindset lessons into our small group meetings. Through perception data collected, we realized many students who are failing have fixed-mindsets and by incorporating more growth-mindset activities can better address ASCA Mindset and Behavior M2: Self-confidence in ability to succeed.
Early in the school year we developed our 2nd goal when parents voiced a concern over the amount of stress their students were experiencing due to an increase of testing and the transition to middle school. We reviewed school attendance data and saw a trend in students missing class time to go to the clinic and chronic absences from school with stress related symptoms. In reaction to this trend each counselor formed a “Stress Busters” group for their grade level. Students were identified by teacher recommendation, parent’s request, student self-reporting, and attendance report. Small group techniques included play and art therapy, music therapy, stress relieving techniques, and relaxation breathing. Perception data showed lower stress levels throughout the group sessions and overall 81% of participants felt they were able to use the stress reduction techniques effectively. Sixth grade attendance improved by 80% as a result of the small group intervention. Upon evaluating delivery of the stress groups, data suggested that 4 sessions were too few and students would benefit from 6-8 sessions to carry students through one whole marking period.
Addressing our 3rd Goal, the Latino Mentoring small groups were formed across all three grade levels to help raise reading scores with our ELL population. End-of-grade data showed a dramatic drop in reading scores from 2015 to 2016. According to Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade scores, in 2015, 19% of ELL students were reading at “beginning learner” levels. That number increased to 58% in the spring of 2016 reading at “beginning learner”. Additionally, the CCRPI scores for the ACCESS test fell from 7.95 in 2015 to 2.18 in 2016 which was another indicator of a gap. Starting in the fall of 2016-2017 school year, all ELL Latino students were invited to be a part of the mentoring groups. Kennesaw State University’s ESOL department partnered with our Counseling Department to bring this group to our students. The small groups met with Counselors and Kennesaw State University mentors culminating with a field trip to visit the Kennesaw State University campus. During the small group sessions, students worked on reading skills, learned how to remove barriers as a Latino student, and read literature related to their culture. Students in this small group intervention showed a huge increase in reading scores improving by 45% and ELL students reading at “beginning learner” levels on the EOG scores dropped to a three year record low of 13%. Since the results from this group were positive in reading growth, we plan to continue this small group Kennesaw State University partnership next year.