Beginning in September, we analyzed our grade reports and gained input from our stakeholders to determine which subgroup of students would become more successful students provided with the proper intervention. The aim of students in our International Baccalaureate (IB) magnet school, is to graduate having attained the IB Certificate. Our graduation rate is 100% and our retention rate is 0%. However, in the 2015-2016 schoolyear, magnet data reports showed that 50 of our 8th grade students graduated our program without earning their IB Certificate. There are 5 basic requirements for the certificate (see artifact): an academic goal (C or higher in all academic classes), effort goal, conduct goal, community service hours, a community service research project and a graded portfolio of work from 6th to 8th grade with specific requirements. Data showed that most of the 50 students had earned their community service hours and completed all courses. But they lacked a C or higher in all of their academic classes. The Portfolio Grade Report showed that many of our 7th and 8th graders were also not meeting their portfolio requirement. We chose to target the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students with a GPA of 1.49 or below (D or F) at the end of the 1st semester, a subgroup of the 49 students we targeted in our academic goal.
Our counseling interventions consisted of 5 group activities carried out by
the counselor/group lead and one Portfolio-related intervention. These evidence-based activities included a time-management activity, because it helps you to become a more effective and successful student; and a study skills activity, because they help a student to retain more content in less time. Research asserts that students who learn how to study and are good time managers tend to be more self-directed, have more confidence and strive to learn more, leading to better performance. We also included a SMART goal activity, because goals help us define what we want and how to get it; a session on good decision-making skills; and, a session on calculating their GPA and learning the value of their cumulative record. The final activity was a small group portfolio clinic with our Magnet Lead Teacher, to ensure that they were on track and had the necessary knowledge to successfully pass their portfolio requirement. Small groups were the chosen method of delivery because they are efficient and effective in helping students learn skills and grow in a supportive environment.
Process data showed 100% participation for a total of 21 students. We were happy about the number of students and distribution of students in their groups. A comparison of pretest and posttest perception question responses revealed that students believe that, as a result of the activities, they gained knowledge, increased skills, and had a positive change in attitude. Outcome data shows that the delivery and content of our sessions had a positive impact in a large percentage of the students targeted. Out of the 21 students served, 11 students (52%) showed academic improvement. Nine of the 21 students (43%) fully met the goal with a final grade of C or better, while another 2 students raised their grade a whole letter grade. All (100%) of the students passed their Portfolio requirements for the year. We feel that this group was a success. However, examining the outcome data, we noted that all of the students that ended up failing the course and most of the students that ended with a D average, had the same subject/ teacher, which brings up the need to dive deeper into possible explanations, an opportunity for advocacy, and the chance to offer further support to the students and the teacher, since that was his first year teaching that 7th grade Civics course.
For 2017-2018, we will devote an entire session to organizational skills. In terms of mindsets and behaviors, we are in agreement that the ones chosen were appropriate. We were happy with our method of data collection and the quality and relevance of the perception questions. We will provide the 6th and 7th grade students in this group with intensified support as they move to the next grade level. We also plan to institute a preventative portfolio mentoring session between all of our incoming 6th and 8th graders, assisted by the History department, to aid in portfolio project completion. In addition, we will collaborate with stakeholders to expand our delivery of school/college readiness activities that teach time management, organizational and study skills to all of our students.