To prepare for our 2016-2017 Closing the Gap Project, the McEachern High School Counseling Department used the 2015-2016 graduation data to identify achievement gaps within our school. Increasing our school graduation rate is one of the achievement predictors indicated in the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). To identify our gap, we used information gathered from our Cobb Student Information System (CSIS) to identify the amount of students who only needed 3 to 4 core classes to graduate and compared this with the number of students who needed between 6 to 10 in order to graduate. The purpose of the project was to identify 4th year students in the 2013 cohort who still required 7-10 total credits to successfully complete their graduation requirements by May 2017, therefore putting them off-pace for graduation. The selection of this project aligns with our desire to develop the mindset of self-confidence in our students’ ability to succeed demonstrated by the students’ use of time management; as well as develop a belief in using their abilities to the fullest to achieve high quality results and outcomes. Behaviors that we believe will follow these mindsets include the ability to apply self-motivation and self-direction to learning and perseverance to achieve long term results.
The counselors decided to implement a multi-tiered intervention system. We utilized collaboration and communication with parents, small group strategies, and individual meetings as the intervention to support these students. All lessons were intentionally selected to ensure each student was encouraged and supported to develop a positive self-image, both academically and socially. For our initial group meeting, we invited a former student who had to overcome numerous public academic, emotional and environmental barriers in order to graduate. To build on the momentum of the initial meeting, we taught the students to create SMART goals using a goal ladder and assisted the students in creating such goals for themselves. After learning to create SMART goals, the students created vision boards with an emphasis on categorizing their boards into short, intermediate and long term goals. Following the creation of their boards, the students presented as they so desired. Lastly, we held individual meetings with each student to track their progress towards accomplish their initial goal of graduating on time utilizing a status sheet. We wanted to be sure that we had a systemic approach to closing this gap, which led us to utilizing both larger groups with all the participants at the same time, smaller groups of students within a groups of 2 or 3 as well as individual meetings. Post Intervention Perception data showed an increase of 2% of students who believed it is important to graduate on time with their class. The achievement outcome data showed that 36% of the students graduated by May 2017 and 60% of the students graduated by July 2017.
In reviewing outcome and perception data from the Closing the Gap project, in the future we could implement a better way to monitor students throughout their high school career and collaborate more with teachers and parents in the process. We also decided to collaborate with our school social worker to identify and address external and environmental factors that negatively affect school attendance and performance. We discussed the need to adjust our core curriculum lessons by providing study skills to our students. We noticed that we discuss expectations and graduation requirements but do not discuss in detail study skills that can help the student. We discussed how we can also share note taking strategies and organizational techniques at our 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade parent breakfasts. Hopefully these changes to the interventions would yield a higher percentage of graduating seniors.