Numerous research studies have shown that after school programs can play a vital role in student success. The Harvard Family Research Project (Wilmer,Little and Weiss, 2008) showed the importance of coordination between after school and school day personnel. With our program, the counselors worked very closely each week to communicate with teachers, and consistently connected students each week directly with their teachers for individual help. Counselors worked to assist students with managing their time to best meet their academic goals. The HFRP also showed strong links to improved self-confidence in the ability of students to succeed, which was one of our ASCA Mindset Goals. Our Program Goal focus for our CTG group was for at least 80% of students involved to pass all core subjects and improve at least one core academic subject grade by fourth quarter. In reviewing the outcome results, 100% of our students passed all of their subjects and 95% of the students attending at least 5 times improved a grade by the end of the year. This goal directly aligns with our school mission that “Student Achievement is our Top Priority and we understand that students and adults learn at different rates and may need additional time to achieve mastery.”
Other studies have shown that consistent participation in afterschool programs are associated with higher test scores, better work habits, and fewer behavior problems (Vandell, Resiner, & Pierce, 2007). The post perception data we gathered from this program supports that research, as 90% of students who participated shared that they felt the program was helpful in increasing their grades most of the time. Seventy percent also stated that it was helpful in improving their organization during the year. Additionally, our teachers reported that for the students who attended consistently, organization and grades improved during the school year. Our outcome data supports this feedback. (See CTG Results Report)
Counselors worked with our Interdisciplinary team teachers in October 2016 to review first quarter grades at a C or lower, and those students who had not passed the Math or English SOL the previous year. A review of these lists showed that many of the students with lower grades were also in one of our SOL “gap groups” for Reading and Math scores. These gaps include our African American, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged populations, as well as our students with disabilities. Passing scores in English and Math for these subgroups show a difference of 10%-35% lower than the general population. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/statistics_reports/school_report_card/index.shtml
The school counseling department held Homework Club this year for all grade levels. Eighteen homework club sessions were offered for the sixth grade group. Seventeen sessions were offered for the eighth grade group, and ten sessions for the seventh grade group. However, our sixth grade group is the group we focused on due to the larger number of students participating consistently throughout the year. Counselors worked with students weekly to help them learn to monitor course work that was due and manage their time most effectively. Counselors also spent time helping students with organization and study skills. Additionally, counselors connected students with individual core academic teacher assistance as needed to understand and complete assignments. These skills align with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors we were focusing on, including: Self-confidence in ability to succeed, gaining a positive attitude towards work and learning, learning to use time management, organizational and study skills.
Counselors maintained communication with the families and teachers to ensure that we were addressing student learning, highlighting student successes, and addressing any inequalities that may exist for these students. While every student we invited did not attend consistently, we were pleased that we were able to work with a majority of the students that were invited. Data was compiled for students who attended at least five of the eighteen sessions.
To address the challenges our seventh and eighth grade programs encountered with recruitment and retention of students, we discussed these concerns with our Advisory Council in June of 2017. The suggestions they recommended included: providing snacks, changing the name, implementing targeted lessons to support specific skills, providing immediate positive feedback through PBIS tickets, and implementing celebrations for our participants. The need for additional help to create a smaller ratio for more effective support of student needs was another concern. Our Advisory Council members suggested using the high school’s study hall time at the end of the day to enlist high school student help. We are hoping to implement all of these suggestions in the future.