The GACA core curriculum lessons were chosen based on input from our annual needs assessment survey and designed to align with our department’s mission and vision, the school improvement goals, and the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors standards. The lessons were designed to support our program’s goals and are based on school data. The counseling department has chosen to highlight the following three lessons: “PSAT @ GACA”; “Know Your Tests: SAT and ACT”, and “All About Financial Aid”. Students elect to attend the lessons and must be proactive in coming to the virtual classroom where the lessons are conducted. Those that cannot attend can listen to a recording after the live session.
In the Financial Aid lesson, all potential 2017 graduates were invited to attend as part of our monthly Senior Success Sessions. Only 48% of our students attend college, potentially because of the lack of awareness of financial aid resources available to them, and may have limited knowledge about the state’s merit based scholarship program, the HOPE Scholarship. The goal of this lesson is to increase student knowledge on the types of financial aid available, how to qualify, and how to apply using the FAFSA.
The data shows that we had a 6% increase in completion of FAFSA applications from 2016 to 2017. The counselors will continue offering this lesson during the fall so that students are prepared when the FAFSA becomes available. The presentation will also continue to focus heavily on the HOPE scholarship due to it being the most popular scholarship opportunity in the state of Georgia.
In the SAT and ACT lesson, all students were invited to participate as part of our annual College and Career Week activities in November. Our students do not have a physical counseling office to visit for informational materials on these tests and many of our students are not aware of the reasons for taking the SAT & ACT, the process of registering, when and where the tests are offered, the best times to take them, or the use of fee waivers, and will contact us confused on where to begin. The goal of this lesson is to increase student knowledge in these areas.
Our students increased their knowledge on reasons for taking the tests and the data showed a 7.4% increase from 2016 to 2017 in students taking the SAT or ACT. We feel that continuing to offer this lesson during College and Career Week is the ideal time because the lessons/activities offered during this week put the college application process in the forefront of the students’ minds and they begin taking steps towards becoming college ready. This also gives them time to register and prepare for remaining test dates. The counselors will continue to use the current curriculum since the data shows that students did increase in knowledge on all areas on the post test.
In the PSAT @ GACA lesson, all 10th/11th grade students were invited to participate in conjunction with registration opening for the PSAT. As an online school that does not have a physical campus, we rent a space to host the PSAT, which gives us the disadvantage of not being able to pull the students from classrooms to take the test. Students must be motivated to pre-register and travel to the testing site. The goal of this lesson is to promote registration for the PSAT and to explain the purpose, procedures for registering, subject matter, and interpreting scores.
The results of the data showed that students who participated mostly increased their knowledge about the PSAT, although there was a 20% decrease of students strongly agreeing that they felt prepared for the material reflected on the post test. We did not see an increase in the number of students that took the PSAT from 2015 to 2016. We feel that there is still a need to complete this classroom lesson before the PSAT date in October. But because students stated that they did not feel prepared with content material, the counselors will heavily promote our College Prep with SAT course, which allows them hands on practice of the SAT through Khan Academy. We will also collaborate with Math and English teachers to offer live lesson sessions focusing on content prep before the PSAT date.