Assessing and meeting the needs of all students is an important aspect of the counseling program. Each year, the teachers are given an opportunity to get to know their students, and in October may complete a needs assessment which may include recommending those students who will benefit from small group participation. Additionally, as the need arises, parents may choose to recommend their children for small groups, as well. Parents receive a description of the groups, and to assure that the group is the most appropriate referral for the student, they may choose to contact the counselor or teacher to discuss.
Prior to group participation, permission slips are sent home and must be signed before a student is accepted into the group. All permission slips are reviewed to determine whether the parent agrees with the referral and kept on file. Small groups met once per week and lasted from 30-45 minutes. The group duration is between 6-8 weeks and is comprised of weekly grade and age level specific sessions that are prepared and implemented by the grade level counselor. These particular sessions also aligned with our district cross-walk tool and the ASCA Mind-sets and Behaviors with an emphasis on self-control, responsibility, social maturity and team-work. As it is determined that several students are in need of common services, they are invited to meet with others, and are able to work on gaining skills agreed upon by the group.
As students meet weekly, they are learning skills that can be applied in the classroom or in social settings with their peers. They are able to provide feedback and consider ways to make self-improvements, as they learn to work together. At the end of the group, having the opportunity to practice what they have learned, provides the framework necessary to continue to have the students support each other, as they experience the growth process.
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, a review of the discipline data revealed a total of 17 students with discipline referrals from the previous year. By the end of the 1st semester of the 2016-2017 school year, 21 students had discipline referrals. Two students in the program, did not have discipline referrals at our school during the fall semester, but they had a difficult time assimilating to our school culture, and were added after teacher/leadership consultation. As a result, it was determined that an intervention was needed to respond to a growing alarming trend for our school.
With the support of the administration, the counselors decided to address the issue with a mentoring group for our students. Thus, a partnership was formed between the Discovery High School baseball team and 24 Benefield Elementary School third, fourth, and fifth grade students. The groups met once per week and discussed topics that were pertinent to school aged students, to include: friendship, goal-setting, responsibility, academic pressure and impulse control. One student was not able to participate in the Mentoring group, per parent request and two withdrew. The students were invited to interact and discuss areas that seemed to bring them success, as well as areas that may have caused difficulties at times. The group ended with an ice cream social, at which time the students were given an opportunity to show their gratitude by writing thank you cards to the high school mentors to show appreciation for their support. As a result of being in the group, 15 of these boys did not receive any discipline referrals in the spring semester, and three boys had a 50-75% decrease in referrals from the fall semester. Overall, we saw an 88% decrease in discipline referrals, among these young men.
Based on the results, over-all, the group was effective. However, there is room for improvement. We had a difficult time securing adequate meeting locations, which led to frequent off-task behavior. The lessons were presented by the high school students, and they were often uncomfortable and lacked confidence in their delivery. As a team, we had consistent data, but it was difficult to collect, because of the off-task behavior of our students. Although the group was data-driven, in the future, we would like to include students who would benefit from having a mentor for reasons, besides behavior. We would also like to consider the use of the Student Engagement Inventory (SEI), when determining student participation.