At the beginning of this school year, the Broad Run school counseling team analyzed attendance and graduation data and found that attendance rates were showing a steady decline, by 0.19% from the previous school year, and chronic absenteeism increased by 2.81% over the past five years. Further analysis indicated that Hispanic students have shown an increase in chronic absenteeism, as well as a decrease in grade level promotion and on-time graduation rates. Working towards closing the achievement gap, the team established a goal to increase grade level promotion for our Hispanic students by offering small groups and weekly check-ins to build relationships, strengthen resiliency, and improve school attendance.
At the end of the first quarter, 73 Hispanic students earned at least one D or F. Counselors identified students with the most at risk factors, including homelessness, English Learner (EL), and financial disadvantage, and selected six boys and six girls to participate in a small boys and girls group. A significant amount of time was spent trying to get parent permission forms back from the twelve students. Due to poor attendance and the lack of parent permission, counselors were unable to start a girls’ group. For similar reasons, the boys’ group started in December, rather than October, as initially planned.
Counselors met individually with all identified Hispanic boys and girls to build rapport with each. Students were given a survey to identify needs and an academic contract which helped them establish an action plan to improve their achievement. Throughout the year, counselors provided weekly check-ins to review grades and attendance. They facilitated meetings with teachers and communicated frequently with parents and administrators.
Based on survey results, counselors developed seven small group lessons for the boys’ group to address time management, study skills, organization, advocacy, listening skills, and post- secondary planning. Although post-secondary planning was not a need identified in the initial survey, counselors felt that student motivation levels might increase if they could identify realistic career paths of interest. During each session, counselors monitored attendance and grades for each student and discussed issues that negatively impacted their achievement.
Interventions were monitored and student progress was discussed during weekly counseling department meetings, as well as monthly attendance meetings with administration. Hispanic students showed an 82% increase in grades from first to second quarter. Academic progress improved significantly, but attendance for many students continued to be an issue. With a focus on building relationships, our administration started a faculty mentor program during the beginning of the second semester. Counselors referred ten Hispanic students, but only six agreed to participate. Faculty mentors met individually with the six Hispanic students to help them build a stronger connection to the school.
Data showed that some of our underperforming Hispanic students were EL. The assigned counselor increased her time spent in beginner level classes getting to know the students and gaining a better understanding of their needs. She provided lessons that focused on graduation requirements and course selections. Students showed an increase in their understanding of each, asked more questions, and took a proactive role in selecting their courses. EL teachers reported an increase in student motivation after each lesson. Next year, we will give EL students a needs assessment and provide quarterly lessons that focus on meeting those needs.
Overall, we saw a 1.23% increase in the attendance rate from last year and the promotion rate for Hispanic students improved by 2.97%. Furthermore, the graduation rate for Hispanic students increased by 6.2% (See DATA Report-Closing the Gap).
Counselors and school staff worked hard to build relationships with students this year and data show that this was effective in improving student achievement. We believe our individual and group counseling efforts had a direct impact on student attendance and graduation and promotion rates. Weekly student check-ins were beneficial, but time-consuming, so we will identify students earlier in the school year and utilize additional counseling staff to offer more small groups for Hispanic and at risk students. To help increase efficiency, we will move from weekly to monthly check-ins when students show academic progress.
Parent outreach is another area of focus for the team as we consider home visits and community events to strengthen relationships between school and home for our families with at risk students. Counselors will try Restorative Circles and identify various incentives that might help improve attendance. The team also suggested that the administration explore research-based mentoring programs to train interested staff next year.