Maine East High School (2019)

Park Ridge, IL

Closing the Gap


Our counselors reviewed student achievement data from the previous school year and learned that Biology (a required course for all freshman) had more semester 1 failures (35 out of 400 students or 9% of students) than any other course during the 2016-2017 school year. Compared to all other grade levels in science courses, freshmen failed science at a higher rate than sophomores, juniors, and seniors. We decided to focus on freshman science failures as our closing the gap goal. In August of the 2017-2018 school year we approached the science department chairperson with our desire to work together to decrease the number of freshman Biology failures and, together with Biology teachers, developed a plan for identifying students for targeted interventions. This area was also connected to one of our department goals, because we know that students who are on track with earned credits at the end of first semester freshman year are 3.5 times more likely to graduate high school in 4 years.

After the end of the first quarter of school (early October), we identified 30 freshmen who were currently failing Biology and targeted them for our interventions. We asked the Biology teachers to also provide feedback on contributing factors (attendance, homework completion, executive functioning, and behavior concerns) that led to the students failing the course at that time.

For interventions, all students in this group received two individual meetings with their counselor to discuss their grades and to create an action plan in order to pass the course. Secondly, each student’s counselor also called parents/guardians to discuss the concerns and communicate the action plan. These two interventions were selected to help the students understand why they were failing, assist them in creating a successful plan for passing the class and including parents/guardians helped ensure that the students were getting a consistent message and support at school at home. For a third intervention, the students were assigned to our school’s academic support and tutoring center where they received tutoring and assistance for their Biology class. Students were assigned for multiple weeks and exited the academic support center based on meeting academic standards set by the Biology teachers.This intervention was selected to ensure that all the students had additional teaching for the content of the class in order to support any gaps they had in their learning. Our fourth intervention for the students was a series of group lessons devoted to improving executive functioning skills. The 30 students were divided up into 3 groups of 10 and taught 7 lessons (once a week for 7 weeks) on executive functioning. The curriculum for the groups was from the Rush Executive functioning curriculum which is researched based curriculum created through the Rush Neurobehavioral Center (a division of the Rush University Medical Center based Chicago, IL. It was selected because it had been a successful curriculum used in other interventions. Our teacher/student survey found that many students were failing because of lack of these skills.

Of the 30 freshmen in our targeted group, 26 of them (86%) passed Biology for semester 1. 2 of the 4 students who did not pass withdrew from our school prior to the end of the 1st semester, so we did not have any completion data on them.

While there was significant success with our student outcomes, we know that we can improve on this process. We would like to identify students earlier in the process in order to reduce the number of students who have to go through this intensive intervention system. As a department, we believe that we need to spend more time with all freshmen at the beginning of the year teaching executive functioning skills, since that was the primary reason these students identified for failing the course during quarter 1. The focus of the mindsets and behaviors was build self confidence, improve executive functioning skills, and creating a positive attitude towards school and learning. We included parents in the process to help with creating a positive school and home balance, and we wanted students to be able to learn how to create an effective plan to overcome barriers to their learning. While we believe that each intervention was important in the success of students, we do not know the extent that each intervention worked. For next year, we would like to survey students on what they felt was the most impactful intervention to their learning in order to focus our time and resources on that type of intervention.

Goal: By December 2017, 9th grade students with a quarter 1 F in Biology will decrease by 50% from 30 students with F's to 15 students with F's

Target Group: Freshman who are receiving an “F” in Biology at the end of quarter 1.

Data Used to Identify Students: Report Card/Student Grade Reports from quarter 1

School Counselor(s): Amy Allen, Suzy Caliendo, Angie Edsey, Mark Hankins, Alen Ibrahimovic, Nicole Rinaldi, Cris Villalobos, Mieka Yochim

ASCA Domain, Mindsets & Behaviors Standard(s): Domains: Academic and Social/Emotional. Mindsets and Behaviors: M2, M6, B-LS3, B-SMS 6, B-SMS 8

Type of Activities to be Delivered in What Manner?: REVISED SECTION #1: Two one-on-one counselor sessions with the student to create action plan for passing Biology. Sessions were individual with each student and his/her counselor and took place in the counselor’s office #2: Parent/Guardian phone/in-person conversation with the student and the counselor. Each counselor called the parent/ guardian from his/ her office with the student present #3: Assignment to additional academic support for Biology curriculum. Each student was assigned to our academic support center, specifically to the science portion of the academic support. Students reported to this area during their free time for anywhere from 1 week to 2 months based on the individual student’s needs. Teachers and teachers aids are assigned to the academic support rooms and administer the intervention #4: Executive functioning group lessons for the students. Students were split up into 3 different small groups of 10 for this intervention. 2 counselors co-lead each group which met once a week for 7 weeks.

Process Data (Number of students affected): 30 Students

Perception Data (Surveys or assessments used): Pre/Post Survey Comparisons Pre-survey was given to students prior to the start of the interventions (end of Q1) and the post-survey was given to students at the end of the semester when interventions were completed and grades were finalized. Results on a 4 point likert scale (4-highest, 1-lowest) Q1: I can keep track of my daily assignments from school: Pretest Average: 2.8 Posttest Average: 2.93 increase of .13 average Q2: I can complete my daily homework assignments from school: Pretest Average: 2.93 Posttest Average: 2.93 increase of 0.0 average* *This question had no increase and we were unsure why this happened. It is possible that the lack of change was a result of how the question was written or because the students felt that they could complete their homework, but chose not to. Q3: I understand how to manage my free time in order to complete my school work: Pretest Average: 2.7 Posttest Average: 3.12 increase of .42 average Q4: I understand the connection between completing my course work (homework, labs, assessments) and how that impacts my final grade: Pretest Average: 3.13 Posttest Average: 3.65 increase of .52 average Q5: I believe coming to school every day will lead to more success in high school and beyond: Pretest Average: 3.57 Posttest Average: 3.70 increase of .13 average Q6: I believe how much time I spend studying for my assessments will affect my grade: Pretest Average: 3.3 Posttest Average: 3.4 increase of .01 average* *This question had minimal increase, and we think this was a result of not spending a lot of time with students helping them understand how their study habits correlate to academic success.

Outcome Data (Achievement, attendance, and/or behavior data): During 1st semester of the 2017-18 school year, of the 30 targeted students failing Biology at the end of quarter 1, 26 (86%) passed Biology for semester 1. Of the 4 remaining, 2 failed Biology at our school and 2 transferred out and we have no data on their course completion. For the 2017-2018 school year, we had 2/425 students (0.5%) fail Biology for semester 1. Compared to the previous year, during 1st semester of the 2016-17 school year we had 35/400 students (9%) fail Biology during semester 1

Implications: The primary focus of intervention/activity #1 was to create an action plan developed by the student to identify how they can build confidence, effectively use their time management skills, and overcome obstacles in their lives. Since the interventions had an impact on student outcomes, it shows that they were appropriate for the students we identified. The questions we asked for the pre-survey were directly related to the Mindsets and Behaviors, and because we surveyed the students and teachers about why they thought the failure was taking place, we had broad data to support our programming. Next year we plan to address executive functioning skills with our entire freshman class earlier in the semester in hopes of lowering the number of quarter 1 failures, while still implementing the same interventions for any students failing Biology at the end of the 1st quarter. The focus of intervention/activity #2 was to connect a student’s home life with school. We looked at raising student self-confidence as well as balancing school/work activities. Including parents so there was a consistent message and expectation was important. While students were reluctant to include their parents, the majority were glad we did so; however, we did not collect formal data on this, but just informal conversations throughout the process. In the future, we will always include parent contact and inclusion in any intervention that targets academic achievement. The focus of intervention/activity #3 was to directly address curricular knowledge gaps that the students had by providing re-teaching of skills and content. We focused on build self confidence, a positive attitude towards learning and help students overcome barriers to their learning. We did not collect data on the students’ perceptions of the impact of this specific intervention, though since 86% of the students passed, we believe this was an appropriate intervention. Next year, we would survey the students on how impactful each intervention was to their success to help determine if we should focus more time on one of the other. The focus of intervention/activity #4 was to help students with the executive functioning skills, since the majority of students identified that this was a major reason they were failing. We did not collect data on the students’ perceptions of the impact of this specific intervention, though since 86% of the students passed, we believe this was an appropriate intervention. Next year, we would survey the students on how impactful each intervention was to their success to help determine if we should focus more time on one of the other.