Bridging our students’ achievement gap is part of our school counseling mission and program focus. During the summer Cohort, counselors Dr. Matamala and Ms. Ortega, in collaboration with the Leadership team and Curriculum Leaders, analyzed the school data reports on achievement, attendance and behavior using the Early Warnings System (EWS) report, final grade reports and Standardized Testing scores to identify discrepancies among student groups. The data indicated that 35 students failed Language Arts or Math and 22 students failed 2 or more courses. In alignment with our School Improvement Plan, Goal 2 of identifying at risk students to provide support and intervention to increase achievement, we decided to focus on students on the EWS with retention indicators and any other student failing one or more courses at the 1st quarter report. At the end of the first quarter, we identified our target subgroups: 38 students (8th grade), 9 students (7th grade), and 30 students (6th grade). Digging deeper into the data, we discovered that of these 77 students, there was a gender disparity across grade, race/ethnicity, and ELL/SPED students who were failing; i.e. 64 students (83%) were boys and 13 students (17%) were girls. We chose the following activities and specific strategies to address this gap, support our overall program goal to increase the passing rate, and help ALL students become more self-aware and confident in using their abilities to their fullest to achieve high-quality results/ outcomes (M 5).
1. In an effort to deliver our interventions more effectively with so many students, we held large group sessions focused on learning about self to identify strengths, organization and time management, and goal setting with emphasis in the here and now. This intervention is supported by research by Clark (2009) on “Middle School Boys Underachievement” and the LINKS Program from West Virginia Dept. of Education. Students were separated by grade level and asked to complete the Student Services Intervention Plan, identifying specific learning behaviors for academic success (B-LS 3). These plans served as behavior contracts, as students wrote out their intended plans for change by completing “I will ___” statements.
2. We held individual planning sessions for seven students failing advanced courses and 9 students failing SPED courses. These focus of these sessions was to determine whether their inadequate progress was due to a lack of ability or effort. These individualized interventions allowed us to reinforce the importance of a growth mindset approach to student learning (B-LS 8) and to make informed decisions about who needed a schedule change and whose progress needed to be monitored more closely.
3. We enlisted stakeholder support with parent-teacher conferences (B-SS 3). Our list of target students (Academic Monitoring List) was shared with teachers in January to enlist their help in monitoring and encouraging student progress. We prioritized parent-teacher-student conferences for students failing 2 or more courses. These conferences revealed an important barrier to learning: student distractibility. In response, the counselors scheduled a Parent Workshop on the topic: Supporting your Inattentive Child. To increase parent attendance, this workshop was held in the late afternoon, so working parents could attend. We also held a mandatory Academic review meeting for students and parents to discuss course recovery options, including summer school and virtual classes.
The Closing the Gap results show a decrease in the failure rate across all grade levels, as well as a decrease in the gender disparity. Final grade reports indicated only 22 students (1.9%) failing one or more classes; a decrease of from 77 students (6.5% of the student population) identified at risk of failure after the first grade report. In addition, there was a decrease in the gender disparity of at-risk students: with 83% boys and 17% girls after the first grade report, down to 73% boys and 27% girls in the final grade report.
We analyzed the data to make decisions on improving our interventions. We plan to schedule parent-teacher-student conferences earlier in the school year to ensure parents know how to monitor grades and support student progress. We will continue teaching students about the Growth Mindset and the value of making their own plans to achieve their goals. The counseling team decided to include the Student Services Intervention Plan,” as a page in every student agenda for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. The use of this plan helps increase students’ self-confidence in their ability to succeed (M 2) and helps students assume responsibility for their own progress (B-SMS 1) as they address barriers to