At the high school level, we conducted a needs assessment at the end of the 2015-16 school year to drive our school counseling program goals and initiatives for the upcoming academic year. As a result, the Georgia Connections Counseling Department offered a total of three small groups during the fall and spring semester of the 2016-2017 school year. Since we are a virtual high school, the unique nature of our environment presents some challenges with regard to offering small groups. We have found that we have higher attendance, higher participation, and repeat visitors when we offer the open versus closed group format. With the open group format, we send out weekly invites to our target student populations and provide the focus topic for the upcoming session. We review group norms at the beginning of each session and remind students that due to the open nature of the group, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Students are encouraged to communicate with the counselor(s) privately if they want to share anything that they wish to keep confidential.
The Incredible Hulk Group led by Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Williams was developed to provide students with the necessary tools to manage life’s stressful moments. Students attended 6 group sessions that covered various topics including learning how to manage mood swings, coping with anxiety, dealing with difficult people and situations and communicating feelings in a positive way . The group was open to any high school student grades 9th – 12th, but personal invitations were extended to students with a 504 Plan and IEP, as well as students with any Child Welfare or Student Concern issues. Of all the groups offered by the counseling department of Georgia Connections Academy, the stress and anxiety group continues to have the highest weekly attendance. Child welfare and student concern cases continue to be an ongoing occurrence among our population. However, tracking data has proved to be the most challenging for this particular group due to limitations with data reporting. Although a pre and post test are administered, these only provide subjective/perception data. In the future, the team has considered tracking individual student changes in attendance, grades etc. versus overall percentage changes to track the true impact of the group.
The “Beginning with A BANG!” Group led by Mr. Jones was specifically designed to help the promotion rate of previously retained 9th grade students. The group’s mission was to promote a better learning environment for those students by fostering stronger time management and organization skills and to develop a sense of community among this targeted group to promote group cohesion and unity. Results showed that 102 or 24% of the retained 9th grade population that was enrolled with Georgia Connections Academy and was offered this group was successfully promoted to 10th grade. Mr. Jones concluded that the group had a positive impact on promotion rates but that weekly reminders should be offered for the group to promote further and more consistent attendance in the future as that was often sporadic.
The Study Hall group led by Mrs. Tran, was specifically designed to equip students with the academic skills to be more successful students at Georgia Connections Academy. The group targeted students in grades 9-12 who had failed at least 1 course in the previous semester, and covered topics ranging from assessing your learning style, organization, and time management tips, study skills, and test-prep tips. Although attendance fluctuated over the 6 weeks that the group was offered, a total of 45 students benefited from participating in the group. Mrs. Tran compared students grades at the start of the group to the end of the group to determine overall effectiveness. The median grades at the start of the group was 77% and at the end of group it was 79%. Students grades appeared to have improved as result of participating in the study skills group. As with the other groups offered, data collection proved to be more challenging than anticipated due to the inconsistencies in attendance. This made it difficult to assess the full impact of the group. However, due to the number of student failures, it was determined that the counseling department should continue to offer this group in the future.