Our small groups were formed to address the needs stated in our program goals and our closing the gap goal. Each group has lessons that were created to meet the needs of the identified grade level population.
The small group attendance groups were an intervention designed to address our program goal that addresses attendance. Students identified in this group are seventh and eighth grade students who had between 10 and 14 absences the previous school year. After creating our list of students who met this criterion for 7th and 8th grade attendance target groups, the counselors divided the list by grade level and created lessons that tied motivational issues to attendance. The activities for the group meetings focused on helping students build skills to overcome obstacles while relating these skills to improving attendance and helping students to stay motivated to be at school through empowerment. Both the perception and outcome data from the attendance small groups indicated that their attendance was improved and that these students had increased their mindset toward overcoming challenges.The Pre and Post Test was a Why Try survey that consisted of 27 questions on a 5 point Likert scale. 50% of participants improved by 3-5 questions. 25% of participants improved by 6-8 questions. And 25% of participants improved by 9 or more questions. The counselors continued to touch base with the students in these small groups bi- monthly to monitor attendance and to review skills learned to assist in overcoming challenges.
We also worked in large group attendance incentive groups by grade level. We obtained reward items from our business partners that included movie passes, phone charging bricks, stadium blankets, umbrellas, and jump drives. We set a monthly attendance goal in these groups, and we met each month to reward students who met their goal. The large group attendance incentive groups gave us another opportunity to have discussions that relate school attendance with graduation rates as well as time to reinforce good habits for when absences do occur.
A small group was also created for 6th and 7th grade students to assist students in developing skills to cope with anxiety. We are a school that serves a fairly affluent population where parents expect and encourage their children to be academically competitive, and we also see many students who report feeling stress and anxiety regarding fitting in with their peers. We surveyed teachers to recommend students who exhibited signs of anxiety at school. We also used individual student counseling requests to add names to the teacher generated list of targeted students. One of the counselors facilitated this small group and used materials from The Anxiety Workbook for Teens written by Lisa M. Schab. These students met once a week for six weeks during January and February of 2017. The topics for discussion centered around learning strategies for coping with anxiety and ranged from thought stopping, locus of control, to visualization techniques. A Pre and Post Test that was counselor generated was administered, and it consisted of 12 fill in the blank questions. 50% of participants increased by at least 9 questions, and 50 % of participants increased by 12 questions.
A small group was created for 8th grade students to address students’ needs regarding self-esteem. Students were able to self-recommend themselves to the counselors for this group and parents and teachers were also asked to refer students who would benefit from a group focusing on enhancing self-concept. Many of the students in this targeted group have been seen in the counseling office regarding their feelings of not fitting in; many of these students fall in the very small pocket of students living in poverty in our school attendance zone. One of the counselors and our social worker led this group using materials from the book, Girls in Real Life Situations written by Julia Taylor and Shannon Trice-Black. These students met once a week for seven weeks during the weeks of January and February of 2017. These students engaged in activities and discussions that focused on topics that ranged from self-esteem, self-identity, and body image, to accepting personal imperfections. A Pre and Post Test titled Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale was administered, and it was a 14 question survey using a 4 point Likert scale. 60% of participants increased by at least 10 questions, and 40% of participants increased by 14 questions.