Evaluation of an Innovative Approach to Improving Middle School Students' Academic Achievement

Article excerpt

This article presents the results of an evaluation conducted by two middle school counselors, in collaboration with university researchers, to assess the effectiveness of a classroom intervention designed to impact academic achievement. The intervention utilized was a standardized conflict resolution curriculum, which then was linked to problem-solving strategies across core academic areas. The results of the evaluation indicate that students' self-efficacy beliefs regarding problem solving were higher in the intervention group than in the comparison group; however, no significant differences in academic achievement were found.

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The ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2003) highlights the importance of identifying school counseling interventions that impact students' academic achievement. According to the ASCA National Model, developmental classroom-based interventions led by school counselors have a prominent place within school counseling programs because they enhance the capacity of school counselors to benefit all students. School counselors ought to be able to use research literature to identify classroom-based interventions they can utilize to impact academic achievement. Unfortunately, the current school counseling research literature contains relatively few outcome studies that document the impact of classroom-based interventions on students' academic achievement (Gerler, 1985; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). In a recent Delphi study of research needs, school counseling leaders identified research that studies the outcomes of specific interventions on academic achievement to be of critical importance (Dimmitt, Carey, McGannon, & Henningson, 2005).

The outcome studies of classroom-based school counseling interventions that do exist highlight the need for more documentation of this aspect of professional school counselors' work. Hadley (1988) found that elementary students who experienced classroom-based interventions from an eclectic range of personal/social skills curricula (e.g., Developing Understanding of Self and Others, Most Important Person, and 100 Ways to Improve Self-Concept in the Classroom) showed higher reading scores than students who had not participated in the program. Lee (1993) found positive effects of the Succeeding in Schools program on elementary students' standardized achievement test scores. Cams and Cams (1991) found that a program designed to enhance elementary students' self-efficacy, metacognitive skills, and understanding of preferred learning style had an impact on standardized achievement test scores.

In an exceptionally well-designed study, Brigman and Campbell (2003) examined whether the combination of curriculum-based and group-based interventions with a focus on cognitive and metacognitive skills, social skills, and self-management skills known to be related to academic achievement would have a measurable impact on students' scores on a standardized state achievement test. In the treatment schools, school counselors implemented the Academic and Social Skills Support: Student Success Skills curriculum in both classroom-based and small group formats, and they included 185 students who were randomly selected from schools that implemented the study's counselor-led interventions. The control group included 185 students randomly selected from schools that did not implement the interventions. Only students who initially scored between the 25th and 50th percentiles on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) were included in this study. Treatment and control groups contained students from the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th grades, and they were from schools matched on geographic proximity, race, and socioeconomic level. The performance of the treatment group on the FCAT was significantly higher than that of the control group, and it demonstrated that classroom-based interventions that focus on certain skills can have a substantial impact on academic achievement. …