The W.T. Woodson School Counseling Department determined four small groups would be implemented during the 2016-2017 school year to meet the needs of our students. Counselors came to this decision after analyzing the SIIP, reviewing data gathered from previous groups, and utilizing the ASCA Mindsets and Behavior Planning Tool. After reviewing the school’s needs, counselors prioritized groups to best meet the needs of students. Program planning took place during a Collaborative Team meeting and counselor assignments for the groups were confirmed during the diversified staffing meeting.
Both the Freshman Academic Group and Senior Post-Secondary Planning Group were selected to align directly with the department’s goals. Students who participated in the Freshman Academic Group were ninth graders who earned at least one D or F on their first quarter interim report. The Senior Post-Secondary Planning group consisted of seniors who at the beginning of fourth quarter were referred to the group by his or her individual counselor because they had not confirmed post-secondary plans. The For Others with Others group was selected and run by our CSS counselor, Jennifer Parker. The group services students from the CSS program who have limited social interactions with peers due to their placement in self-contained class settings. The group focused on improving social skills and building connections within the school community. Students from the W.T. Woodson Leadership class joined the group to further build connections with the CSS program.
In the 2016-2017 school year, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) released a new course sequence for English Language Learners (ELL), allowing ELL students an opportunity to graduate within four years. Based on the new course sequencing and our growing ELL population, Woodson counselors decided to utilize FCPS classroom lesson curriculum to implement a group in order to promote inclusiveness and pathways for academic success. The ELL group was co-led by seven general education counselors with goals of increasing counselor visibility amongst our ELL population, help to strengthen the relationship between counselors and students, and to provide students with interactive lessons on topics selected by group participants. Counselors taught four lessons from November to May. Within the group, there were nine students who were English as a Second Language (ESOL) level one or two based on their WIDA exam. While language skills vary per student, many students who qualify as level one or two speak, read, and write little to no English. Counselors were accompanied by an interpreter when visiting the classroom.
During the first lesson of the ELL Group, counselors administered a pre-survey. Questions were formulated based on the Mindsets and Behaviors Planning Tool. The pre-survey provided a baseline assessment of the student’s knowledge and attitudes. Students were provided the opportunity to select topics they would like to learn more about, which drove future lessons. By utilizing the Mindsets and Behaviors Planning Tool, counselors offered a variety of topics included from each subheading of the planning tool. Students were able to select from a list of topics including stress management, anxiety, test taking skills, classes offered at Woodson, graduation requirements, options for after high school, clubs/sports offered at Woodson, and how to make friends. As a result of the pre-survey data, counselors were able to develop future group lessons in order to increase knowledge and achievement, and to change the behavior of group members.
Following the classroom lessons, a post-survey was administered. Students reported a 35% increase in connectedness to Woodson High School, 24% increase in making friends, 12% increase in having a plan for after high school, and 23% increase in teachers caring about students. Participants of the group experienced a 4.5% increase in grades across core classes from first quarter to final quarter. These changes in attitudes, behavior, and achievement support the effectiveness of the ELL group. These statistics were particularly meaningful since ELL students are a small community within our large school, many of whom recently moved to the United States. The data also showed there was a decrease in awareness of who the students’ assigned counselor is. Counselors considered this data point and determined the decrease in knowledge may be due to different counselors visiting the classroom each month. After reviewing all student data, counselors will continue the ELL small group next year. For future ELL groups, counselors would like to include more ELL students and increase the number of lessons provided throughout the year. By doing this, counselors aim to increase student knowledge, academic success, increase in grades, changes in behavior, and feelings of connectedness to Woodson High School.