The Pebblebrook High School Counseling Department met in the Summer prior to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. The team met to identify and discuss specific areas of school-wide concern, which derived from school data. Review of the Cobb County School District’s Retention Report for Pebblebrook High School revealed that there was a high number of 9th grade students who were retained from the 2015-2016 academic school year. The school counseling department also reviewed the comprehensive discipline summary for the 2015-2016 school year, and from that data determined that a significant number of 9th grade students received In School Suspension (ISS), with many of the suspensions appearing to be linked to conflicts with peers and/or faculty and staff members. In addition, the counseling team agreed that current evidence-based research suggests, students may be more likely to be retained if they are missing class due to being suspended from school.
The review of school data by the counseling team led to the creation and implementation of guidance lessons and interventions that would address specific concerns, as they related to 9th grade students. The plans developed for 9th grade students were to be both proactive and reactive in nature. From the start, the school counselors determined that conflict resolution lessons were needed. Their intent was to assist students with becoming more knowledgeable about ways to deal with conflicts. By providing information that students could readily use, the counseling team was working to prevent future incidences that could lead to negative outcomes. Sharing alternative responses to conflicts was a part of a larger plan to diminish the number of discipline referrals stemming from poor peer and adult interactions. Educating students would in turn reduce the number of individuals having to serve ISS overtime. Conflict resolution core curriculum lessons were administered through 9th grade homerooms during the Fall semester of the 2016-2017 school year. Small group counseling services on conflict resolution and program solving were delivered through In School Suspension and were implemented once per week.
From the core curriculum lessons school counseling department identified several key areas that can be improved in terms of data collection and evaluation. We determined that process data needs to be collected as soon as possible after the lessons so that less time is spent obtaining the data because it was more difficult to obtain data months after the interventions. We also discussed the fact that not all students who attended the lessons completed the surveys and there needs to be a better way to assess students in which they are more likely to complete the assessment (possibly using electronic programs that students could use their phone to complete pre and post test data would be beneficial. Eighty-five students were absent during the intervention. Therefore attendance concerns need to be addressed when developing core curriculum.
The results of the small group pre-test suggested that students had a common theme of no accountability for aggressive verbal and physical responses to the conflict resolution process, and methods for dealing with issue involving conflicts with peers and staff were ineffective. Based on the findings from the post-test, students were able to identify specific tools that can be used for preventing conflict, disciplinary actions, and unhealthy consequences after participating in the lesson. With data evaluation of the small group, in the future it may be helpful to also include the dates that the students were assigned to ISS that they were receiving the intervention in data to give a better picture of student progress. We only looked at a 21 day period prior to the intervention so students more than likely had more of a decrease in the group total number times that they were assigned to ISS/OSS than what we reported.
Going forward, the counseling team will use the outcome data from conflict resolution lessons and In School Suspension groups to educate incoming 9th grade students who may be at risk for exhibiting similar behaviors to their predecessors. The counseling team will use the information gathered to determine if conflict resolution lessons should be delivered during both semesters of a school year instead of one. They will also review the ISS numbers to determine if specific grade level interventions are needed for those receiving referrals to ISS. As a team, the Counseling Department will collaborate with the administrators responsible for discipline. Working together will allow both groups to come up with strategies that can become best practices for dealing with our student population.