School counselors reviewed school performance data, recurring social-emotional needs, and attendance patterns impacting academic achievement during the previous school year. Based on this data, aligned with the Arlington Tiered System of Support, topics for small groups were developed for SY 2017-2018. Group topics aligned with school counseling goals to close the achievement gap among GAP groups, to develop appropriate behaviors in academic and social settings, and to reduce excessive tardiness to school. Counselors consulted with teachers, administrators, specialists, and parents as part of the referral process.
Counselors collaborated with the School Social Worker to provide two intervention groups for students with chronic attendance issues. Both groups addressed the impact of poor attendance on school performance, the mindsets and barriers contributing to frequent tardiness or absences, and solutions to change behavior. The group for seventh and eighth graders included nine students with 18 or more unexcused tardies during SY 2016-2017. The group for sixth graders included four students who were skipping specific classes several times per week.
During SY 2016-2017, there were 102 discipline referrals related to bullying among Hispanic students. To close the achievement gap, an intervention group was provided to reduce the number of disciplinary referrals. The group helped students to identify bullying behaviors, learn problem-solving skills, and work towards positive change.
Two groups were offered to help students develop appropriate social skills in certain situations. The Soft Landings group focused on self-advocacy and building relationships in a new school. The Honey Bees’ group focused on conflict resolution skills for sixth-grade girls engaging in relational aggression in friendships.
During SY 2016-2017, the school goal was to improve literacy, especially among GAP groups. This goal remained the same for SY 2017-2018. Counselors discussed their role in helping students to become better readers, but struggled to identify activities to achieve the goal. Through collaboration with the Reading Specialist, the sixth grade counselor facilitated a six session reading group to provide emotional support for struggling readers. Students practiced skills related to growth mindset to build their confidence in reading. Group topics addressed the importance of reading, developing perseverance & GRIT in reading, becoming courageous readers while reading aloud, practicing reading comprehension strategies, and becoming more confident test-takers for the Reading SOL.
During SY 2016-2017, the sixth grade regular pass rate for the Reading SOL was 83% and the Advanced Pass rate was 27%. Data showed there were 86 rising sixth graders who did not pass their fifth grade Reading SOL. Students were selected for the group based on the following criteria: identified GAP groups, fifth grade Reading SOL scores below a passing score of 400, and scores within the 350 to 400 range with the potential to pass the SOL. All participants were reading below grade level and taking Reading Strategies to improve decoding and reading comprehension skills. There were 12 minority sixth-graders who participated in the group. Participants fairly represented all of the academic programs - Traditional, Spanish Immersion, HILT, and Special Education; there were not any identified students within the Montessori program. Initially, 13 students were invited to participate in the group, however, one student chose not to participate because she did not think that she needed the support.
The Reading with Confidence group was practical in helping students to improve their mindset toward reading. Perception data results indicated that most students still felt that reading aloud was uncomfortable, nonetheless, six of the 12 students passed their Reading SOL. Four students passed the Reading SOL on the first attempt, while two passed through a retake. There was an increase of SOL scores ranging from 30 points to 81 points, with the largest increase by a student who consistently expressed his lack of confidence in reading. Pre-survey results showed that most students did not like to read and read infrequently on their own. Post-survey results indicated nine out of 12 students read a few times per week, once a week or once a day. Outcome results were positive and showed the need to provide this group for all grade levels. Furthermore, the Advisory Council suggested that the growth mindset activities should be used as Tier 1 activities, not just for struggling readers.
The Reading with Confidence group was facilitated by the sixth-grade counselor and her intern. Sixth graders comprised the largest number of students who did not pass the Reading SOL during SY 2016-2017. The sixth-grade counselor conducted the group because of her previous experience in supporting minority students who had not passed their Reading and/or Math SOL’s in fifth grade.