The Impact Group topics were selected due to low grades, staff request and student survey responses. The goals for the group were to improve student school motivation, use of academic resources and improve interpersonal communication skills.
Teen Talk utilized a curriculum developed by an adolescent health research organization for the topics. In addition, the curriculum allowed for open discussion of self-esteem, personal and family values, decision-making, communication, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, personal responsibility and accountability.
The topics for the attendance group were selected to create real world experiences that empowered them to think about their choices and decisions in the here and now as well as the future. Additionally, the topics were chosen to create a change in behavior and a paradigm shift in the students’ mindsets.
The Impact Group was in need of academic interventions as the participants were identified as earning average grades. Students were selected due to failing grades in the first semester and a GPA of a 2.0 or lower. Furthermore, the students had responded to a survey provided at a presentation called “Bring Your A Game.”
For Teen Talk, announcements to the students and staff about the benefits of participating in the group were made when school started. Students voluntarily signed up or they were recommended by a teacher, parent or counselor. Due to the nature of the topics, parent permission had to be granted in order to participate.
For the attendance group, Dr. Smith-Charlestin received a list of juniors and seniors that were identified as having missed five or more days from August 17, 2016 through December 16, 2016. From the list of 274 students, she randomly interviewed 35 students with the goal of selecting 8-10 students. She wanted to include students that were not on an attendance plan or receiving free counseling from Intervention Services (a free community agency located on our campus). When 11 students returned the permission slip within a couple of days, she decided that those students would form the group.
Taking a school wide approach was the most impactful in terms of reducing the number of students missing school. The counselors took the lead and the attendance administrator went into classrooms to discuss attendance, the counselors conducted freshmen classrooms lessons, provided parents and students with resources and offered small groups to juniors and seniors. The attendance secretary made phone calls home if a student missed a class, teachers alerted the counselors when students missed a significant number of days, the school nurse advised parents about our attendance policy, and the social worker made home visits to those who did not attend school. She also put them on Attendance Intervention Plans which required parental involvement. The counselors also informed new students, 8th graders and their parents of the attendance policy. This collaborative effort worked and we witnessed a 50% reduction in the number of freshmen missing school. We experienced success, yet we did not continue doing what we knew worked. An effort will be made to continue to doing what works.
The results revealed that a concerted effort to make an impact in our attendance data needed to be made in earlier grades and more systematically. If we intervene early by informing the students and parents of our attendance policy and intervene often by conducting classroom guidance lessons and small groups, we should see a dramatic decrease in the number of students missing school. We also need to consider having multiple attendance groups during the second semester of the freshmen year so that we can reach more students and continue to follow up with the students. In essence, if we continue doing what works, we will experience a change in our culture which will lead to a decrease in the number of students missing school.
In the future, designing better survey questions is essential so that we can show the growth. We now know how to work backwards to design the survey questions and capture the data that we want to highlight as we have the mindset to begin with the end in mind. Also, a survey is not necessary for each group meeting since it is not capturing essential data that is tied to the group goals and objectives as guided by ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors. We also learned to think holistically when designing group lessons instead of looking at each lesson as a single entity with a goal/objective. In so doing, finding the appropriate mindset and behaviors for the group becomes a naturally flowing process.