The Flinn Middle School Closing the Gap Goal was to decrease office discipline referrals by 5% from 824 earned in 2016/2017 to 783 earned in 2017/2018 in a selected group of 17 black students in the 7th grade.
The process of defining our gap started in the 2016/2017 school year, concentrating on our end of the year data. The data covered discipline, attendance, and academics. When the data was further broken down by ethnic groups, grade levels, gender, and economic levels, our biggest gaps were with our black students. And even in this ethnic group, the sixth grade students had the largest gaps of need. The following year in 2017/2018, the counseling department met with administration to focus our mindsets and goals. One of the administrations biggest concerns was with negative behaviors and office discipline referrals. The decision was made to focus on the mindsets and behaviors that we felt addressed the data and administration; sense of belonging in the school environment (M3) and creating relationships with adults that support success (B-SS3). A targeted group of now seventh grade students who had earned the most office discipline referrals in the previous year were chosen for our closing the gap intervention. This targeted group of students made up 2% of the school, but 28% of the referrals.
The main activity we chose to address the gap was a series of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) sessions because of the research and evidence base supporting it. Adaptability of the therapy allows us to work with students struggling with defiance, attention deficit disorder, grief, and challenging home lives (Kelly, Kim, & Franklin, 2008). In several studies reviewed by Kim & Franklin in the article Children and Youth Services Review, SFBT showed an improvement in behaviors using the Connors Rating Scale (Kim & Franklin, 2009). Our counseling department had also used SFBT with success in previous years to help students reduce their office discipline referrals. In addition to the SFBT, students in the target group had opportunities to receive additional support through classroom lessons on communication, mentoring, consultations with parents and teachers, goal setting, and various small groups based on need.
The results of the data we collected will help us to deliver interventions more effectively by creating stronger pathways for targeting students. The data suggests that our closing the gap interventions were successful; office discipline referrals decreased in the targeted group by 69%. The SFBT program we used will remain largely the same, but we plan to use the data to build a rationale to target students assigned to consequences during the school day. This would change our data collection from quarterly/yearly to a more current model. We feel this is needed because many of our students in the targeted group responded quickly to the SFBT and needed less support than we expected. We believe that working with students who are in need of support immediately is a better plan than waiting a year to add them to the SFBT program. The counseling department believes that the mindsets and behaviors we chose, M3 & B-SS3, will continue to be relevant for the 2018/2019 school year. We plan to add more mentors to the program and work to create relevant goals for the students who struggle with acceptable school behaviors. We also plan to work with the teacher in charge of the in school suspension class to gain access to the students who are assigned in school suspensions each day. The counseling department will continue to work with the administration to focus on this concern and use the data to advocate for our student’s needs.