REVISED: Unfortunately, the counselors that had been at LMS for many years prior to us did not offer many small groups. Therefore, there was little time available for small groups. Mrs. Hyman expressed frustration with this, but knew over time, we would make a change. Knowing small group intervention is a highly effective strategy for changing student behavior, we prioritized this goal.
LMS has weekly Advisement meetings where students meet with one teacher in small group for discussion about school motivation. Since our principal asked us to prioritize attendance, we requested to have students with excessive absences in our advisement groups. Ms. Auslin and Mrs. Diaz also made a commitment to having at least one other small group during the year. Scheduling attempts were met with teacher resistance. However, students we selected for our small groups were students in great need of academic and behavioral support. We used the rationale with teachers that many of these students were in danger of failing or failing with the current services they were receiving. We told teachers that groups would be another layer of support. In order to respect academic instruction, we pulled students during lunch periods for our respective grade levels. This proved to be difficult, because students in group had staggering lunch times. We had to be flexible when teachers didn’t want to release students early or have them come back late because of activities in the classroom. We shared concern and frustration with our administration towards the end of the year. We presented our data evidencing improvement for almost every student participating in our groups. Because of these discussions, our administration has granted us protected time this year to conduct groups during a new half-hour enrichment period in the school's schedule.
Our attached Small Group Action Plan reflects the focus on attendance data and the school improvement goals embedded in greater achievement. Because the attendance small groups spanned the entire school year, we believe almost all of the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors were covered in these small groups. However, the action plan highlights mindsets and behaviors covered in respect to regular attendance at school (i.e. responsibility, setting short term and long term goals, belonging in the school, etc.). The mindsets and behaviors that drove Ms. Auslin and Mrs. Diaz’s groups aided both counselors in selecting programming and perception surveys they utilized in their groups.
Mrs. Diaz’s resilience group lesson plans are attached. She chose the “Why Try?” resilience program designed by Christian Moore (2001) to address the mindsets and behaviors in which her students needed intervention. “Why Try?” is a research and evidence-based program designed for youth at risk of academic failure. It contains a series of ten visuals that represent struggles in life and behaviors/strategies to help overcome them. Because of the scheduling difficulties mentioned above, she was only able to get through six of the visuals, yet still believes the program was extremely effective. This group started with six students but ended with four because two families moved out of our district. Three of the four students had reduced amounts of discipline referrals from semester one to semester two as well as increased grade averages. In addition, the perception data from the Resilience survey completed showed an improvement in their sense of belonging as well as their sense of power and responsibility in their life. Though one of the students did not find academic success, his survey results did show improvement. This particular student is now in the SST process and data is being collected to consider testing for a learning disability. After discussing the supportive research and effectiveness of the curriculum with this group, our Principal is looking into funding to purchase updated materials from “Why Try?”. Because data from this small group points to increased sense of belonging and greater academic achievement, we will put greater focus on delivering all of the ten visuals during a more consistent time frame. A dedicated time period without disruption for eating and staggered arrivals would most likely prove beneficial. All three counselors plan to utilize this curriculum with more small groups, while tailoring it to specific grade levels.
As previously stated, because were were able to take positive outcome data to our administration, we have gained protected time for groups during this academic year, of which we are taking advantage. We are continuing attendance small groups and each of us have also increased the amount of students that we involve in small groups for social/emotional reasons.