A Needs Assessment was conducted at the end of the 2015-2016 school year to inform the creation of small groups based on the needs of our student population. We compiled and analyzed the results over the summer and presented to the administration during a planning meeting in August. The goals of the coming year were also discussed. We looked at the mindsets and behaviors that we wanted to address, and which ones we wanted to target in small groups. A list of possible groups was generated. In addition, teachers were asked to nominate students. Finally, the counselors compiled a list of students in need of small group support, separated into categories as they counseled the students during the year. The students for the more academic groups, organizational skills and academic achievement, were chosen based on grades, including those on academic probation, as well as based on their participation in the mentor program. Students and parents were contacted and the groups were organized and announced in the Annual Calendar.
Rationale – Grief Group Evidence on the impact of childhood bereavement suggests that for some children there may be effects on concentration, attendance and educational attainment, that may be long term. Every year we see students experiencing such loss. Our focus on the whole child, with an emphasis on the emotional wellbeing of every student, helps to increase resilience as a protective factor. This is the focus of the first mindset M1, belief in the development of the whole self, which is a focus of both divorce and grief groups. We will continue, since the group was successful in teaching coping skills, normalizing feelings, providing peer support and helping students work through painful issues about loss and changes.
Rationale -Divorce Group Many of our students are children of divorce/separation. A vast body of research confirms that children of divorce have higher risk of developing academic, behavioral, psychological and social problems. The small group setting helped Ms. Perlman build protective factors in these students by helping them learn cognitive behavioral skills and coping styles to help them adjust and offered a supportive peer environment. We will continue to run divorce groups because data showed that they were effective and because the need for them is strong.
Rationale- Girl Group According to a vast body of research, the early onset of puberty is a time when girls see a drop in self-esteem, which is linked to depression and poor academic achievement, and a higher risk of developing poor body image. We also have our share of student suicide ideations. The majority seems to be females and self-esteem plays a large part. The additional pressure of being in a rigorous academic environment and the media are also factors. This group addresses ASCA behavior B-SS8 “Demonstrate advocacy skills and ability to assert self”. Additionally, through our student needs analysis conducted in May 2016, 30% of all students communicated a need for help with issues of self-esteem, specifically “to understand, accept, and like myself better”. By addressing this issue through homogeneous grouping it helped build a community of support where girls were free to express themselves. Simultaneously, an afterschool Women Empowerment Club was formed and run by one of our alumni and our 7th and 8th grade counselors. We saw a marked decrease in visits to our office for self-esteem issues and relational aggression among our female students.
Rationale – Organizational Skills Organization is an important foundational skill that is crucial for student success, especially in Middle School. Without organization, students do not learn the content as effectively and a lack of it has been found to affect a student’s satisfaction with school and post-secondary life. The six-session organizational skills small group ran two of the planned three times during the year with students from all three grades. This group addressed behavior B-LS-3 “Use time-management, organizational and study skills”. It was highly successful. However, we will discontinue it as a small group for next year. Instead, we plan to convert it into mini 30 minute sessions as core curriculum to all students during homeroom.
Rationale -Academic Achievement/College and Career Readiness This group focused on improving academic achievement and the foundational skills needed for college/career readiness. Students were chosen for this group based on being on academic probation and not meeting grade requirements for obtaining the IB certificate. This group addressed M4 mindset and B-SMS 5 “Demonstrate perseverance to achieve long-and short-term goals”. Next year we will cut session 5 because of time, and input received.