As the 2015-16 school year ended, our counseling team identified a group of male students who had failing grades each semester during middle school, accounted for a majority of our 8th grade discipline referrals, and had a higher rate of absenteeism (10% or more). These students received all of our universal interventions and did not qualify academically for higher levels of school wide interventions.
Data was gathered about these students and analyzed by their counselor, teachers, parents, and their administrator. The team examined academic assessments, attendance records, social history and discipline referrals. We found that this group had a high rate of barriers in learning due to home dynamics. We also found that these students were low-average in academic skills, and demonstrated low coping and social emotional skills. Using the ASCA mindsets of M-2 (Self-confidence in ability to succeed), and M-6 (Positive attitude toward work and learning) would be the basis of our curriculum and goals set forth.
Using class time would be difficult, as teachers already had limited time with them, and limited focus when they were in class. We also knew from past experiences that it was difficult for a counselor to assume classroom responsibilities due to responsive services. After brainstorming with administration and the 8th grade teachers, we developed a plan where a team teacher and the 8th grade counselor would team teach a class in the 2016-17 school year during our school-wide ELT/PLT.
This structure would allow for 30 minutes of academic support/advisory time, and 30 minutes of social/emotional small group each week. Many of the activities in the small group came from the evidenced based curriculum, “Why Try.” Additionally, each student would create a goal sheet in google and track progress on goals quarterly, with the main objective of lowering their absences, referrals and increasing GPA. To support behavior changes in the classroom, the counselor would randomly visit each boy’s classes once a week.
In order to encourage our restorative culture, our 8th grade administrator would take discipline referrals that these boys received to the group and would get feedback (circle) on what action should be taken to restore the community. The offending boy would then have the option to restore the community or take the consequence.
At the beginning of the class, the boy’s and their parents signed a form that allowed us to share information with the group around academics, behavior and attendance. This was used to create group goals in these areas. If a boy ws absent, others from the group would make a phone call encouraging the student to come to school. When the boy’s reached their attendance goal, our principal took the opportunity to build positive relationships and brought the group donuts.
The STEP program was a success in assisting group members grow in achievement, behavior and attendance goals. We did not meet the percentages of attendance growth we hoped for, the impact of decreased behaviors was felt by the entire school. Teachers and administrators, although initially hesitant, jumped on board to support the group goals.
One of the biggest challenges that we expected to face with this group was the amount of time it would require the counselor to dedicate. After evaluating our use of time for both the 15-16 and 16-17 school year, it demonstrated that this program assisted the counselor in spending less time in responsive services with these boys, reducing the overall time spent with this group.
Overall, we felt that the growth seen by this group is due to the structure. Having 2 adults in the room with this group was ideal not only for focus, but for building rapport. If we were to do this group again, we would allot even more group time due to great discussions or individual goal setting that was rushed because of time restrictions. Additionally, we would bring in our administrative team in more often to celebrate the growth of the group and to also expand on the restorative culture.
A large piece that was missing from this program was complete parent buy in. We would communicate often, and invite them in for meetings. Parenting workshops or interviews would be great to bridge the gap and get more feedback about the barriers for these students. We have worked with our school social worker to create a social history survey to include for future groups. We feel that including parents, especially with goal setting, will positively impact our data when we conduct this intervention next time.