Students were chosen for this project by looking at attendance reports and grade reports for the first quarter. Ms. Sherer identified students if they had missed 2 days or more a month and failed 2 or more classes in on the first quarter report card. Ms. Sherer and our social worker, Ms. Miller, agreed to intervene with these students because this narrowed our search to a number suitable for a small group. Ms. Sherer and Ms. Miller worked together to develop the pre/post survey and material for the group. The activities were based on best practices that has been shared in the district and found on Teachers Pay Teachers. Lessons were selected based on mindsets and behaviors. For instance, teaching “B-SMS 6: Overcoming barriers to learning” included covering academic skills and how to prevent further absences. For example, setting multiple alarms in the morning to prevent missing the bus. Other activities included in this project were parent consultation, a letter sent home that covered the district’s attendance policy, and teacher consultations to address student academic concerns.
This gap was important for the department to address because it aligns with both program goals (attendance and retention). This group would manage to address both issues while teaching students skills to make the rest of the year successful. Doing this group with the social worker also added another layer of service to the group because Ms. Miller was able to help students with access to resources. For example, one student said that he is absent because he gets sick and his parents cannot take him to the doctor to get him medicine. Ms. Miller called the parents that day and discovered that they were having issues getting their insurance renewed and she was able to assist them to straighten out the issue.
The small groups occurred during the enrichment/intervention block called Mav Block. Mav Block takes place twice a week and teachers invite students to their sessions by stamping their agenda. We experienced difficulties getting students to attend because most had multiple stamps from other subjects and were pulled to other sessions. For students that did not attend, Ms. Sherer met with them privately to catch them up but they missed group participation. This resulted in having to cut the number of sessions short (from 6 to 4) and included individual sessions in order to properly follow up with students. Looking at the number of students that were present at school and not present for the group (for example, the student was pulled to another subject session) shows that Mav Blocks are not efficient in reaching students. Some suggestions would be to discuss options with administration and conduct small groups in the beginning of the quarter, rather than the end. Some students were pulled to other subjects because they needed to complete work or make up missing assignments before the grading period ended.
While not every student attended the Mav Block sessions, we saw improvement in attendance. For the next school year, we are working on a plan to share this data with teachers hoping this will gain their support. Looking at the attendance results (18% decrease from quarter 1 to quarter 2) suggests the group helped prevent further absences. Two students were 8th graders that had high number of absences in 7th and 6th grade. These students had 10-15% decrease in absences in 8th grade compared to their previous years. The next steps are to first share this data with administration and teachers to argue for more small group support with Mav Block. If counselors have more support then and can have all students participate with small groups, the counselor team anticipates greater results – especially in academics. Based on these results Ms. Sherer suggests a greater emphasis on teaching academic skills to support their grades and recording grades along with attendance for her results. This group process helped the counselors to understand how to fully implement the mindsets and behaviors into our small groups. The department would like to focus on fewer mindsets and behaviors and focus on those few with more emphasis. For example, if this group was reproduced Ms. Sherer would utilize teaching: B-SMS 6: Overcoming barriers to learning, B-LS: 4 Apply self-motivation and self-direction to learning, B-LS 7: Identify long and short academic, career, and social/emotional goals, and B-SMS 1 Ability to assume responsibility. By focusing on only three skills, Ms. Sherer can spend more time teaching the skills and develop surveys to measure these.