As a counseling team we reviewed multiple data sources to determine gaps in our counseling program that impact our students. We reviewed the school performance framework, our student and family perception surveys, attendance data, academic data, and observed trends in our school. Three gaps emerged from the data pertaining to attendance, counseling office support, and credit recovery completion.
1) Attendance: Students who are new to North attend school at a lower rate than their peers who are continuing in the same school.
2) Support in the counseling office: Female students seek support in the counseling office more frequently than their male counterparts.
3) Credit recovery completions: Male and female students are enrolled in Credit Recovery at equal rates; however our semester 1 data indicates that female students complete courses at a higher rate than their male counterparts.
We brought these three gaps to our counseling advisory group in January in order to both share our findings and determine which gap we would prioritize during the 2017-2018 academic year. Our advisory group determined that the attendance gap would be the priority for the school year and aligned with our Mindsets & Behaviors.
While the counseling team was eager to start implementing activities to address this gap, we first turned to the literature to determine best practices for engaging transfer students in our school and facilitating a smooth transition for them. From the American Counseling Association (VISTAS Online), we found information about the first connections students make at a new school and how counseling groups can reduce social isolation, create connections within the school, and share procedural information about the school with new students. The intervention we chose was to conduct lunch groups for our new students. We piloted lunch groups with the new 11th grade students in the fall to incorporate this best practice from the literature. We invited 38 students to attend by sending passes in the fall and spring and 13 ultimately attending. In our lunch group we had conversations between North staff members and the new students, we shared practical information about the school, and provided an opportunity for new students to connect with one another. In the future, in order to be more effective, we will message about this opportunity more frequently, and use text messaging and email to remind students about the lunch groups.
We then went on a listening tour and solicited information from both new and continuing North High School students through new student experience focus groups. We did this because we wanted to hear directly from our students impacted by our identified gap. Our findings from the focus groups will drive the forward movement of this effort in future years (details provided below) and help us revise the new student orientation process (which was an existing part of the counseling program).
The 2017-2018 school year served in many ways as a pilot year for transfer students supports. Our attendance gap for transfer students compared to continuing students closed by almost four percent and students reported having trusted adults in the building at higher rates (34% increase). This programming allowed the counseling team to successfully start to address various identified Mindsets & Behaviors like M 3: “Sense of belonging in the school environment.” Our efforts this year were a combination of existing new student supports ( student-led tours and the orientation process), information collecting efforts (our focus group), and new interventions (our lunch groups).
In future years we will be expanding our programming and starting it earlier in the year. We will be adding teacher video introductions which is an example of an idea that came out of our focus groups. We will continue to hold follow- up focus groups to collect new and innovative ideas from our students, staff, families, and community members. In addition, we will explore in both the literature and in student facing surveys the links between engagement and attendance in order to ensure we are using the correct outcome measures for this closing-the-gap project. There are a multitude of reasons that the new student experience is important to our counseling team. Many of these reasons are reflected in our attendance goal and pertain to our highly mobile student population. The annual number of transfer students in our school is staggering. This can be seen by the fact that over the course of three years, in the Class of 2019 (190 students at the time of this report) over 160 students have transitioned in and out of North High School.