The Small-Group interventions reflected the mission of the counseling program as it empowered students equitably to take part in shaping their own future and aligned with our goals of reducing disciplinary referrals (Goal 3), improving attendance (Goal 2) and passing rate (Goal 1). Using a proactive approach, we decided to plan small group interventions to help students work towards a healthy balance of their mental and social-emotional well-being (M 1). The group topics were selected in collaboration with the Leadership team and teachers before school started. We analyzed our school data profile, including the Early Warning System (EWS) and the Discipline Log kept by our SCSI (School Center for Special Instruction) instructor and noted that of the 307 disciplinary infractions in 2015-2016, 48 percent (146) dealt with Disruptive/Defiant/Rude behavior. Group participants were then selected by the counselors, Dr. Matamala and Ms. Ortega, with stakeholder input.
The “Promoting Respect” group targeted students who received 2 or more disciplinary referrals this year. Our SCSI program houses all three grade levels so this group was a mixed grade-level group. We focused on helping students gain the skills and attitudes necessary, such as Managing Emotions and Peer Pressure, to be successful in their grade level. The group’s learning objective was for students to learn effective collaboration and cooperation skills (B-SS 6) and the lessons were from StopBullying.com.
A critical response group was “Turn-Around 21!” created to support 21 incoming sixth-graders who experienced great difficulty in transitioning to middle school, as evidenced by more than 20 detentions and 10 referrals within the first quarter. Dr. Matamala adapted lessons from the Florida Crosswalk to revisit basic academic and positive behavior skills (B-SMS 10), including responsibility (B-SMS 1) and perseverance (B-SMS 5).
An 8th grade Career group: “Making Connections” was conducted by Ms. Ortega using the FLDOE Educator’s toolkit to identify academic and career goals (B-LS 7). Supported by teacher recommendations, these 20 students identified “At-Risk” in the EWS were experiencing difficulty in making post-middle school plans (M 4) and academic progress.
The preventive “Decision Making” group conducted during the fall semester included students who had 2 or more suspensions in the previous school year (2015-2016) and students who had 15 or more unexcused absences in (2015-2016). We used the Grab Bag Guidance Curriculum acquired by Dr. Matamala at the ASCA Conference in New Orleans in 2016 as a starting point and adapted the lessons to ensure they were developmentally-appropriate for each grade level. The eighth grade group was split into two separate groups of 10 and 9 students.
The session plans for the “Decision Making” group were guided by ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors. In Session 1: Listening in Decision Making, the ice breaker activity engaged students in individual sharing and encouraged them to demonstrate empathic listening to others (B-SS 4). Our Session 3 activity (5 C’s of Decision making) helped students analyze a situation, think critically to make informed decisions (B-LS 1), and explore social responsibility (B-SS 5). In session 5, the group discussion on “Who influences my decision” highlighted those decisions that resulted in last year’s disciplinary referrals and allowed students to speak about their social maturity (B-SS 9) and how they will approach situations differently now. Using the same perception questions for the small group sessions reinforced new knowledge and attitudes but limited the demonstration of new skills.
The Results Report for the “Decision Making” group compelled the counseling team to dig deeper in the perception data results. There was an increase in knowledge about how to use the decision making process; i.e. from 2 student (8%) to 17 students (90%). Nevertheless, when presented with real-life scenarios, students relied on feelings and peer pressure to make decisions. Adding role-play activities to the lessons will help skill practice. The outcome data revealed positive results: of 19 students who participated, only 3 received disciplinary referrals resulting in 2 or more suspension for the rest of the year. Next year, we plan to continue this preventive small group intervention in a 4-session format starting in September since data shows most disciplinary infractions start in October. Another modification we plan to implement is to use the “Decision Making” sessions in a weekly open group format for those students assigned to SCSI. We also plan to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment given to parents, teachers and students to design our small group interventions plan to expand our focus from reactive to proactive in supporting all students’ academic success, social/emotional growth and college/career readiness.