REVISED - 10. Small-Group Responsive Services:
The counseling department has continuously focused on improving the academic success of our EL students due to the achievement gap noticed from our school data profile. For example, our school’s graduation rate for limited-english proficiency students had dropped steadily in the last four years. A program goal for the 2016-17 school year is to reduce the number of “F’s for EL students. These students accounted for a large percentage of the failed courses at our school. Our counseling department vision and mission statements include the importance of serving all students in our school, further indicating the need to close this achievement gap.
To identify our group lesson topics, we followed these steps:
First, counselors conducted focus groups with EL students from the previous year and used perception data from these groups. We learned several EL students worked a job several hours a week in order to provide for their families and their school work often was put off until the last minute. We decided to include lessons about procrastination, prioritizing and time management and other skills for academic success to help these students manage time more efficiently and not to put off schoolwork.
Next, we had discussions with the EL teachers on barriers to success for this population.
Then we linked the major themes with the Mindsets and Behaviors.
Finally, we used all of the input to select lessons from the Grab Bag Guidance book which provided evidence-based small group lesson curriculum to enhance student success skills.
Participants of the small group were selected based upon the number of failing grades earned at the end of quarter one and teacher recommendations from the EL department. Due to the large number of students who met the criteria (12 students), we determined it was necessary to divide them into two groups, a 9th &10th grade and an 11th & 12th grade group respectively.
Our pre-post test questions were created based on the topic and the mindsets and behaviors in which they are linked. Perception data revealed that 100% of EL students indicated a 7 or higher on a 10 point Likert scale for the question “Attending the Skills for Success Group helped me become a better student.”
Outcome data revealed that in the 11th and 12th grade group, 2 of 6 students earned a total of 5 F's during S1. None of the 4 remaining students earned any F's during S2 or Y1.
We learned from our experience that because of the varied backgrounds, cultures and educational experiences of this group, facilitating this group was very difficult. We realized that we lacked the training needed to most effectively support EL students in a group setting. For example, many different languages were represented in our group which made communication difficult. Also, a few students left our school during the middle of our group before we had a chance to help them improve their grades.
We plan to continue our group approach in assisting our older EL students; however, we plan to take a different approach with our younger EL students. We will discuss with our EL department, how to provide more academic support for these students by expanding the tutorial services available to them.
In a larger context, our hope was that by reducing the number of F's earned by the students in our 2 EL groups, we would be able to again reduce the percentage of school-wide F's earned by our entire EL student population. However, the outcome data represents the first increase we have observed since we began to track this data in 2013-14. As our EL student population continues to grow, we will continue to explore ways to provide additional support for students in this program!
Our school social worker also leads two groups: one for boys and one for girls. These groups were developed to address the needs of at-risk 8th graders who are transitioning to high school. Students were selected based on the data from an at-risk questionnaire filled out by middle school staff. The group is for all grades as students can remain in the group from year to year. The research-based “Struggle to be Strong” curriculum was used for both groups which focuses on positive coping skills and resiliency. The goal is to support these students as they transition throughout high school. We believe the group was successful as the group members’ attendance and their attitudes toward school improved.