How Was The Gap Defined Through Data?:
In the spring of 2017 we identified 36 scholars out of the third, fourth, and fifth grades who, based on previous standardized test scores, had the potential to score higher on Georgia Milestones, yet were struggling. We initially thought the struggle was due to a lack of test-taking skills and adapted a curriculum from Julia Cook’s "Anti-Test Anxiety Society". We held six groups comprised of six members in each group, delivering the curriculum for six weekly 30 minute sessions.
It didn’t work.
The data revealed not only minimal impact on test scores, but even some score decreases. Why? Perhaps it was fatigue from the spring testing season or scholars were worried about the impending summer and the lack of structure or even meals? The scholars did not need test-taking skills. In reflecting on the disappointing data, we noticed a trend. Across grade levels, there was an increased amount of worry reported among our scholars. Some worries centered on academics while others focused on home life.
Considering the implications of our 2017 interventions, we implemented four small groups serving fourth and fifth grades focusing on decreasing worry/anxiety prior to the spring 2018 standardized testing. Throughout the school year, administration challenged teachers to move the needle on low performing scholars. In addition, gifted teachers were challenged to stretch their scholars’ potential. This left the “average” scholars in a gap, and the entire staff was challenged to move the needle for these scholars. We chose to address this gap.
We reviewed Measuring Academic Progress (MAP) scores. Scholars who scored within ten points of the next level were selected, as they were close to reaching their potential. In addition, teacher referrals specifically for test anxiety were also selected. The intention was to provide scholars with coping skills that would decrease worry and allow them to close the gap in standardized testing scores.
We selected 24 fourth and fifth graders who had the potential to move from a Level 3 to a 4 in the Milestones, or the potential to increase the margin above their cut scaled score. For instance, if a scholar scores a 540 (Level 3) on the Milestones one year and then scores a 559 (Level 3), the scholar has increased the margin above the cut scaled score of 525 from 15 points to 34 points.
Why Were The Activities And Intervention Chosen?:
The book "What To Do When You Worry Too Much", by Dawn Huebner, served as our model for a 7 week small group focused on worry management and reduction. We included activities such as the creation of clay worry stones, a worry bag to contain rogue worries, individual goal consultations with each group member, and a parent communication piece educating our parents on how to help their children cope with worries at home. Additionally, each member provided pre- and post-perception data via the Penn State Worry Questionnaire for Children (PSWQ-C) http://www.childfirst.ucla.edu/PSWQ-C.pdf.
Defining A More Effective Delivery Through Data:
The PSWQ-C pretest helped us recognize both the severity and type of worry our scholars were experiencing. As a result, we could address these concerns via individual consultations with each scholar. The Milestone results helped us determine if the scholars were able to remember the coping skills learned in group and apply the skills to a stressful testing situation. Five out of 24 scholars moved from Level 3 to Level 4. Twelve scholars moved an average of 22.8 points further into their Level 3 achievement band. Seven scholars decreased their score by eight points, unfortunately moving into Level 2. Given the overall positive results, we will train teachers to employ the de-stressing strategies in their classroom routines.
For future implementation, we would like to include a qualitative measure to better understand the specific themes of worry that emerged in individual consultations. This measure would contain questions that are more personal and social/emotionally based to dig deeper into individual needs.
Targeted ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors:
We selected the following Mindsets & Behaviors to focus on: M3: Sense of Belonging; B-LS 1: Demonstrate critical-thinking skills to make informed decisions; B-LS 3: Use time-management, organizational and study-skills; B-SMS 1: Demonstrate ability to assume responsibility. As evidenced by the above results, the investment in the social/emotional domain on Mindsets & Behaviors yielded a high academic return.