Group Counseling as an Alternative for the Prevention of Academic Failure Among Middle School Students Thesis

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¶ … Justification for the Research

Page 8 Chapter Two / Historical Background of Counseling

Page 9 Historical Background of Group Counseling

Page 11 ASCA Description of Counselor's Duties

Page 12 Review of Literature / Role of Parents & Counselors

Page 15 Group Counseling -- Positive Results

Page 18 Group Counseling -- Students Motivated to Succeed

Page 19 Service Learning -- Helping Others

Page 21 Counselors Kick-Starting Girls' Interest in Math

Page 22 Counselors & Student Successes

Page 24 Dynamics of Leadership

Page 30 Survival Guide for Middle School Counselors

Page 33 Humanizing the Process for Adolescents

Page 36 Chapter Two Conclusion

Page 37 Chapter Three Methodology

Page 37 Chapter Four Discussion and Conclusions

Page 38 Conclusion -- Florida Dropout Issues

Page 40 Discussion

Page 42 Works Cited

Group Counseling -- Encouraging Academic Achievement in Middle School

Abstract

The adjustment from elementary school to middle school, for many students, is a very difficult period in their lives. For others, the transition from middle school to high school is even more difficult.

This paper quantitatively -- and to some degree qualitatively -- covers the myriad issues that point to the need for group counseling while students are in middle school. The group counseling literature that this paper covers overwhelming points to the counselor in public schools as the person most appropriate for arranging group counseling sessions for those students that are struggling to keep up with their peers academically. Moreover, the literature also points to the fact that by the time at-risk students reach high school, it is too late in most instances to prevent them from dropping out. Hence, the focus should be -- and is, in many places -- on rescuing middle school students from the future oblivion that will come if they drop out of high school.

Chapter One

Introduction

The problems and challenges that children in middle school encounter are numerous and must be taken into account by teachers, parents and school counselors. Adolescents encounter challenges with physical, intellectual, social and emotional changes as they reach middle school age, and these issues can and do interfere with the learning process. For many public school professionals, there may be hurdles to overcome prior understanding the best approach to help middle school students struggling with the above-mentioned issues -- which in many cases can hamper their scholastic performance. This paper offers evidence through empirical studies and other research that bringing middle school children into group counseling can improve their chances of success. This paper also outlines the steps that group counselors take during their training and also the steps they must take to bring the school administration, faculty, parents and other stakeholders into agreement that group counseling is an important step in ensuring academic success for all students.

Meanwhile, on a more philosophical level, the world that students are being brought up in today is dangerous, confusing and in some cases adults have a difficult time explaining the world to children. Consulting psychologist James P. Trotzer -- in his book, The Counselor and the Group: Integrating Theory, Training, and Practice -- wonders what the implications are for adolescents in this rapidly changing world of "expanded communication capabilities." Pre-teens and adolescents are facing choices "…much earlier and in a more intense manner than ever before," the author explains (p. 4).

The list of problems and social concerns that many students are bombarded with through media (Internet, mass media, movies, and magazines) and family mobility, include: "Wars, racism, sexism, terrorism, ageism, poverty, inflation, overpopulation, ecology, global warming, corruption, crime and disasters of human and natural causality, locally, nationally, or globally…" (Trotzer, 2006, p. 4). That having been pointed out, the author asserts that students -- more than they ever have -- need the training in school to make good decisions and solve problems. The development of good decision-making skills -- including "the processes of introspection, communication, and relationship formation" -- are extremely vital for young people in such a rapidly changing world, Trotzer believes (p. 4). Given all the distractions and concerns in the world, brought into students' lives through media, offering students an opportunity to keep their focus on the prize -- academic success, which helps ensure a happy, successful future -- through group counseling makes all the sense in the world. Especially for students that struggle, group counseling can serve as a lifeline to scholastic achievement.

Statement of Problem

The need to build a better academic foundation for middle school children, as they work their way through 6th, 7th, and 8th grades on their path to high school, is apparent and even critical in some middle schools in the U.S. In fact there are respected studies that link the high school dropout rate to poor performance in middle school. In the national report called "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts," sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it is reported that every year, "almost one-third of all high school students -- and nearly half of all blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans -- fail to graduate from public high school with their class" (Bridgeland, et al., 2006, p. i).

In an elaborate survey that was part of the report, "Forty-five percent said they started high school poorly prepared by their earlier setting," Bridgeland explains. Many of these same students say they "fell behind" in elementary and middle school, "and could not make up the necessary ground," the report points out. Those students believe they might have made it in high school with tutoring or help after school -- hence the vital need to give struggling middle school students the support they need with group counseling. Getting a good start in middle school is clearly part of the reason for later success in high school. Four out of five high school dropouts who were participants in the Gates Foundation study said they might have stayed in school if they could have been shown the "connection between school and getting a good job" (Bridgeland, p. iv).

Later in this paper, studies show that some middle school adolescents are being shown the connection between academic success and careers. Keeping middle school students up to par in their academic work, and showing them how to succeed with caring, competent group counseling leaders, could go a long way to reducing high school dropout rates. Indeed, 70% of the dropout respondents in the Gates study said they believed that "more tutoring" (along with summer school classes and "extra time with teachers") would have greatly improved their chances of finishing high school. Those who say they needed more tutoring in high school are quite likely to have also needed that extra support in middle school, and again, this is information that verifies and justifies the need for high quality group counseling opportunities in middle schools.

University of Michigan professor of psychology and education Jacquelynne S. Eccles writes that there is a predictable decline in "academic motivation, school engagement, and academic performance" as students move into middle school from elementary school (Eccles, 2008, p. 1). Declines occur in students' "interest and feelings of belonging in school," Eccles explains. Also there is a decline in "valuing particular subjects such as math" and the confidence in one's intellectual abilities fades for many students in middle school, according to Eccles. Along with the lack of confidence that many middle school students experience, there is "test anxiety and general academic worries," Eccles continues.

Are these declines related to puberty or to school engagement? Eccles suggests that school-related experiences are often part of the decline in academic motivation. "Teachers in intermediate schools are more focused on control and discipline" than on academics, according to Eccles. As a result, there is "less trust between students and teachers" and hence, at the very pivotal time in their early adolescent experiences when they "are confronted with uncertainty about themselves," the middle school students are "often met with distrust from the very people who could provide support for them" (Eccles, p. 2). Certainly a quality group counseling program led by a well-trained counselor who relates well to students can go a long way to creating trust between students and teachers.

Justification for the Research

Because there are extraordinarily high dropout rates in American High Schools, and given that the U.S. ranks quite low when compared with foreign high school students' success rates, that offers powerful justification for programs of positive intervention at the middle school level. Education writer Barbara Pytel claims that "By 6th grade the signs are often there for who is likely to drop out" (Pytel, 2008, p. 1). The signs (not at all unfamiliar to educators) are: grades, behaviors, attendance and tardies. Those indicators are "better predictors" of an adolescent's potential to fail than race, test scores, and socioeconomic status, Pytel asserts. She insists that "nearly half of dropouts can be identified in sixth grade" but on the other hand "interventions in middle school can turn students around and reduce drop out numbers in high school" (p. 2).

In 2007, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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