31 small support groups were facilitated by the school counselor to students in Grades K-5 (136 students). A form was distributed to teachers in November which asked for their high need student recommendations by listed topic ideas. I develop my own compilation of students who are in need of a small support group based on individual and school-wide data such as office infractions, SWPBIS data, attendance data, students who have a small group listed on their 504 Plan or IEP, the cohort of students in 1st grade who struggled the most with unexpected behaviors (Goal #1) and the identified nine 5th grade students (Goal #2). School needs are examined; for example, in 2015-2016, there were a total of 187 office infractions, in 2016-2017 school office infractions skyrocketed to 604.
Lists are cross referenced and groups are organized by topic and parental permission slips are sent home with students. Lack of parental permission can be a barrier for effectively intervening with targeted students. For example, of the 7 identified first graders who struggled the most with unexpected behaviors, 1 student could not participate in group due to the parent declining. This student had 3 office infractions as a kindergarten student, but had 7 as a 1st grade student without this Tier 2 intervention.
Small groups for students in grades 2-5 occur during student lunch and K/1st grade groups occur at a time convenient to the teachers. Small group participants are considered SAP students (in need of an intervention above and beyond what the core curriculum/Tier 1 is providing them) and are a part of the group of 180 students who were reported to the PA SAP state reporting system for the 2017-2018 school year. The action plan reflected ambitious intervening for a substantial group of students, student skill needs matched each overall topic, and the Mindsets and Behaviors drove planning developmentally appropriate skill instruction for each grade level.
The data results for the 4th Grade School Success group are presented in the results report. Mindsets and Behaviors for the small group were chosen based on the progress report work habit and social skills ratings for these students for the first half of the school year. This small group took place during a winter when we had an excessive number of days off, early dismissal days, and late starts due to the weather, stretching the 8 group sessions over 5 months instead of the typical 3 months. This may have had an impact in student retention of skills learned. I am also reconsidering the use of the subjective teacher progress report ratings for work habits and social skills as accurate outcome data. With only three options of Needs Improvement, Sometimes, and Consistently, there is not enough spread in the ratings to show growth. Progress report achievement data is also presented as a rating (not a percentage) so collecting and comparing achievement data is also difficult. The students are often struggling overall in school. Their confidence may already be low when starting the group in January and the intervention may not be concentrated enough to improve their self-perceptions over 8 group sessions stretched across 5 months of time. I would consider starting these groups in the fall instead of waiting until winter. Reflecting on this group, I didn't feel I did a good enough job creating a hook to grab student attention with an otherwise dry topic. The group will continue, but with mindful changes to content.
Small support groups are no doubt the most efficient way to service and intervene with as many kids as possible. That was done; a bunch of ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors were targeted across all grade levels (but maybe too many), informative perception and outcome data was gathered (need to improve on collection of perception data with the younger grades), students learned much, and I was able to make significant personal connections with more students. However, I feel I spread myself way too thin over the course of the small support group months (January to May). So many groups left little time to effectively address individual needs and other role responsibilities. We need to do a better job of determining who, within our high needs population, are in need of the most intervention when focusing on the social/emotional domain, while noting that not all high need students will set off a red flag with our school’s measured outcome data. A school-wide screening tool would help make identification more consistent and targeted (i.e. counselor mini-meetings).