Topics for small group counseling are determined by evaluation of the school counseling program goals and needs of these students. After discussing last year’s perception and outcome data with administration, counselors selected themes for small groups to provide more intense support to our students identified as having the highest needs.
Discipline data from previous years consistently shows that seventh grade students have the highest number of conduct infractions. In conjunction with the needs assessments and advisory council input, we decided a conflict management group would be particularly beneficial to this grade level. In contrast, this group of seventh grade students had lower than normal unexcused absences during their sixth grade year due to a new intervention by their counselor. The current sixth and eighth grade counselors chose to adopt this individual counseling intervention as well as add attendance groups to their calendars in an effort to reduce unexcused absences and support goal 3. The counseling department includes an academic success group in each grade level to aid students at risk of retention after the first semester. Outcome data from previous years’ academic success groups showed that this close, repeated contact with students increases passing rates in all four core classes.
In evaluating our group plans this year, and the change to our college and career program, we realized that our program was designed to address fewer of the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors than normal under the career category. As such, each counselor integrated aspects of college and career planning into the established group topics. For example, both the attendance groups related coming to school like coming to work each day and reinforced how absences from work affect performance, promotions, and reaching long term goals.
Students were identified for inclusion in group sessions based on their conduct, attendance history, and academic performance. Sixth and seventh grade students with a high number of conduct referrals relating to interpersonal conflict were selected for the Conflict Management group. Similarly, students who reached 5+ unexcused absences the previous school year were selected as possible participants for the attendance groups. The selected students who returned the permission forms were then involved in their appropriate groups.
Students identified for the Academic Success Groups were chosen through their presence on the Semester 1 D/F List. The lesson plans were developed through discussion with the selected students about self-identified areas of growth, discussion with core subject teachers, and the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors to ensure quality, valuable skills were explored during the 30 minute sessions.
Perception data gathered specifically from the 7th grade sections related closely to Mindsets 2 and 5 in evaluating students’ perception of their ability to succeed and achieve high quality results. Throughout the lessons, students were not only asked to discuss study skills, but also exhibit them within their own work, therefore ensuring maximum retention and skill development as required by the chosen Behaviors.
Results from the seventh grade sections supported moderate success in both group topics and student retention of standards. Collected perception data reflects that students’ study skills and confidence in academic success increased. In the post-test, students on average reported that they ‘often’ felt prepared for tests compared to the ‘sometimes’ in the pre-test. In addition, 69% of students reported that they have a system to track homework/tests/quizzes in comparison to the 45% in the pre-test. The remaining outcomes can be explored in the results report matrix.
Outcome data also supported the effectiveness of this group. The selected fourteen students ended the first semester with D’s or F’s in a core class. At the end of the second semester, only two students had D’s or F’s in a core class. As such, 86% of students showed academic growth and avoided retention for the year.
Perception and outcome data reflects that the strategies discussed during the group sessions were successful in improving students’ academic success. As similar data results were collected from the 6th/8th grade groups, we felt it appropriate to continue implementing this group during the next school year but instead hold multiple sections of the group twice - in the fall and the spring. By increasing the group’s frequency, we can help students be successful earlier.
Similarly, reduced truancy and referrals reflected improved student performance as a result of other groups. After evaluation, we decided it would be helpful to attempt to implement such groups throughout the year rather than focusing on the spring semester in an effort to help students achieve these skills earlier in the year.