IDENTIFYING THE GAP: In reviewing our school data profile we were quickly confronted by our low 7th grade on track rate. On track for 7th grade in Chicago Public Schools, is defined by students ending the year with Cs or better in both their Reading and Math courses and having 95% or higher attendance. During school year 2015-2016, our 7th grade on track rate hovered between 55%-61% for the entire first semester, a full 23% lower than correlative data for the district; and our “off track” students were not specific to one subpopulation but rather represented our diverse student population. Additionally, we found that this rate has remained low, between 53%-71%, each school year. As such, team counseling reached out to the 7th grade team to see if they would be willing to collaborate on “closing-the-gap” in our 7th grade on track rate through interventions.
SELECTION OF INTERVENTIONS: The Chicago Consortium on School Research (CCSR) Urban Education Institute of the University of Chicago has hallmarked “On Track” research. In their 2009 publication they made four intervention recommendations: 1) Increase data sharing between the feeding school and the high school, 2) Identify students off track or falling off track and intervene, 3) Team teachers by grade levels (rather than by subject) and, 4) Enhance student to teacher relationships (CCSR, 2009). We utilized each of these suggestions. First, we started to change our recruitment process for the following year’s incoming students to ensure that we were getting accurate data from our feeder schools specific to grades, attendance, and behavior. Next, we met with staff members who are the advisory (weekly small learning community) mentors for our current 7th grade students to remind them of the importance of team and relationship building.
Finally, we collaborated with our 7th grade teacher team (one aspect of CCSR’s recommendations we already had in place) to identify tier one interventions and a targeted lunchtime intervention specifically for off track students. Each week, data was collated to determine which students were off track and why (attendance, grades, or both). On the Friday of the week in question the students who were off track were pulled from the last 10 minutes of class prior to lunch and escorted to a central location where they were given time to eat school-provided bagged lunches while we celebrated the improvement of those in the room (increase in attendance or in grades) and then broken into groups. Students off track solely because of attendance worked directly with our attendance clerk to identify the barriers keeping them from school, errors in the documentation of absences (school error), and finally, to create an action plan for improvement. Students off track solely due to academics were sent to a designated “retake” center ran by a teacher in our building who had students complete and/or redo work that was provided by their teachers. While there, students off track for both attendance and grades met with the coordinating school counselor to set goals, create action plans, and work in a small group framework on social emotional elements impacting their success.
DATA RESULTS: Perception data from the lunchtime intervention indicated a positive impact. Fifty-seven percent of students had an increase in knowledge specific to on track requirements, twenty-four percent indicated they had increased skills at improving their grades/test scores, and nearly twenty percent had a change in attitude about their ability to be an “on track” student. This perception data indicates success at supporting the ASCA Mindset (M-5) “Belief in using abilities to their fullest to achieve high-quality results and outcomes” and Behavior (SMS-6) “Demonstrate ability to overcome barriers to learning”. Additionally, outcome data showed a 7.11% increase in 7th grade on track status by the end of the year after only 12 weeks of the intervention.
Based on this data, the counseling team (in collaboration with the 7th grade team and administrators) has determined that this intervention is worth replicating in the upcoming school year with one specific modification: moving the intervention up from the third quarter of the school year based on semester 1 results to quarter one after the first official progress report during week 6 of the school year. We believe this will assist students by catching them early so that they can make better choices that manifest into regular attendance and academic success.