REVISED The counseling department ran 6 groups during the 2016-2017 School Year. These groups were offered by school counselors and Behavioral Health Specialists (BHS) as part of our Comprehensive Student Support System (CSSS). The primary goal of the small group services was to proactively address behavioral issues to promote student success. The department looked at the significant challenges facing our students and agreed that to address the program goals, these students would need help meeting the following Mindsets and Behaviors as stepping stones.
B-SMS 2. Demonstrate self-discipline and self-control
B.SMS 5. Demonstrate perseverance to achieve long- and short-term goals, and
B.SMS 10. Demonstrate ability to manage transitions and ability to adapt to changing situations and responsibilities.
Academy teams met to identify each group’s topics, the target behaviors, and create an implementation plan. General guidelines that every academy used to develop their plan included groups having a maximum of 10 participants, two facilitators per group, a minimum of 4 sessions per group, and that process, perception, and results data must be collected.
The suggested collection method for each type of data was agreed upon by the department to standardize our results report. Process Data collection was to be posted to the counseling services log including the proposed participants, group meetings, and length of meetings. At each meeting, the facilitator would post the actual data for each data piece. Perception Data was to be collected by pre/post test consisting of 5 questions tailored to each group’s goal(s) and specifically to the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors identified in their Group Profile. Finally, outcome data would be collected by utilizing existing data sources using a defined time frame and finding a comparable time frame after the sessions were complete to look at the same measures of student success.
Our featured group is grade 9 girls facilitated by counselor Dolores Weidman, BHS Kellen Velez, and BHS Megan Cannedy. These counselors were chosen through a collaborative process including the academy vice-principals, counselors, and BHS’s. It was their decision that, developmentally, students in grade 9 have better results connecting with same-sex adults; and, that having same-sex facilitators would be less threatening.
Once the facilitators were chosen, they created the group profile. This group would run for 7 weeks, meeting twice per week, with a primary goal of decreasing the number of behavioral offenses for fighting, disorderly conduct, class cutting, and insubordination. Secondary goals to be addressed included increasing attendance, fostering positive peer and adult relationships, and increasing the number of credits earned. The group participants were chosen by identifying the cross-section of students who had reported incidences in the previous school year and indicated a willingness to participate in a small group intervention. This data was gathered from Longitudinal Data Service (LDS) and a student survey that was given to all incoming freshman.
Data collected shows that the use of small group interventions was effective. Process data indicates that 10 students returned parent permission forms to participate in the group. In collecting each session’s attendance, counselors noticed that absences became distracting to the group. Next school year, students will be required to participate in at least 80% of the session to earn incentives for participation. Perception data shows that gains were made in all Mindsets and Behaviors addressed in the curriculum. Most notably, students were able to establish strong relationships with a group of trusted adults on campus. We feel that by having these new relationships on campus, students will be more likely to ask an adult for help in a difficult situation, lessening their likelihood of responding to conflict inappropriately. Counselors would like to see more gains in the area of self-control and overcoming obstacles, and plan to add anger management education into the small group curriculum. Behavioral outcome data supports the post-test perception data. As mentioned, the number of incidents resulting in suspension decreased from 408 in 2015-2016 to 302 in 2016-2017. We feel that the selection of appropriate Mindsets and Behaviors and curriculum combined with a strategic selection process for participants attributed to overall success of the small group intervention and achievement of our behavioral program goal.
The results gathered show that the use of small groups was beneficial to the students, and that anger education material could enhance the curriculum. These results informed future school counseling activities that small groups are a productive intervention for our students. That small groups give students the opportunity to make connections with more individuals on campus, through group facilitators and individuals within the group.