The counselors developed goals by analyzing data and collaborating with our Advisory Council and the School Strategic Plan (SSP) Team. The SSP Team reviewed achievement data and set goals to address needs. The SSP reading goal stated, “by the end of the 2017-2018 school year, 75% of Powder Springs Elementary School students will be reading on or above grade level.” The school counselors met to discuss how we could also support our students in reading. In review of 2017 Fall Reading Inventory (RI) Lexile scores for 2nd-5th grade students, 47.5% of students scored Below Basic (lowest grouping of scores). In digging deeper, we found a cohort of students whose scores were close to reaching proficiency, with scores 100-150 points from meeting Basic (proficient level). Within this group, we found that 36 students were not eligible to receive Early Intervention Program (EIP) or Special Education support through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)to address reading deficits. We discussed how we could use our unique qualifications to help close the gap in reading achievement among these 2nd-5th grade students.
The counselors discussed possible underlying negative attitudes and beliefs that could be influencing these students’ achievement, such as beliefs in abilities (M5), motivation (BLS4), and disinterest. In review of best practices and research-based interventions, we decided to implement a multi-tiered intervention including core curriculum targeting M5 and BLS 4, cross-aged peer mentoring and individual conferences. In a meta-analysis on peer tutoring, Leung (2015) found same-age and cross-age peer tutoring as an effective instructional routine. The study results showed that peer tutoring in structured versus unstructured sessions in math and reading proved to have larger impacts on student achievement. We also reviewed the program entitled Read Together (RT) (Hattie, 2006). RT utilized cross-age peer tutoring and found that peer relationships go beyond improving basic decoding skills and produce increased reading fluency, comprehension, and motivation among student participants (Hattie, 2006).
We developed core-curriculum lessons to be delivered at the tier 1 level among all 2nd -5th grade students. We then initiated the peer mentoring group “The Striped Hat Readers,” to build confidence (M5), motivation (BLS4), and reduce disinterest (BSMS6), while also setting goals to improve basic reading skills (BLS7 & BSMS 5) through positive relationships (BSS 2). We were intentional in choosing books for sessions that related to specific character traits that could lead to increased motivation and confidence. We developed structured peer mentoring sessions with extension activities using Dr. Seuss books. The students were separated into two small groups 2nd/5th grades and 3rd/5th grades. The groups met once per week for approximately 60 minutes for 10 sessions. After 2 initial icebreaker sessions, the pairs completed 8 paired sessions reading the assigned Dr. Seuss book and completing a whole group extension activity. We collaborated with teachers and met with group participants’ identified as continuing to struggle with reading confidence in individual conferences.
The Striped Hat Readers exceeded our goal with an average 158-point Lexile level increase from Fall to Spring RI. We found the interventions to be successful in building skills, developing positive relationships, and increasing interest in reading based on student perception data. The majority of students indicated that participation in the group helped them with reading skills and increased their enjoyment of reading. Students also reported fondness of the peer relationships and reading activities. This perception data correlates with our intended outcome of an increase in reading skills, interests, confidence, and positive relationships. The targeted Mindsets and Behavior standards used to guide the program aligned well with the intended outcomes. In reviewing the data, some participants still expressed negative feelings regarding reading aloud. This data may lend to a restructuring of sessions and activities to target BSMS:7.
Some weaknesses in our perception data stem from the instrument design. We found the emoji scales difficult to analyze and possibly gave the students too many options. We proposed decreasing the number of emojis on the survey or changing them to reflect simple positive and negative feelings. Secondly, we were surprised by the high percentage of positive feelings toward reading in the pre-survey. We discussed that students’ perceptions were possibly skewed with the sense of pride developed from being selected to be a mentor/mentee. With the current questions, we were not able to measure motivation and new items should be developed to measure levels of motivation. We may also expand our target group criteria to include a wider range of students that fall up to 175 Lexile points below grade level given our average growth.