Building Skills for School Success: Improving the Academic and Social Competence of Students

Article excerpt

The focus of this article's study was to evaluate the impact of the school counselor-led Student Success Skills program on the academic and social competence of students. A randomized comparison group design was used to measure treatment outcomes for students in grades 5, 6, 8, and 9 from six schools using state-mandated achievement tests in math and reading and a measure of social competence. Achievement outcomes were measured for comparison group students in schools matched for key demographics. An analysis of covariance was used for the analysis. Students who received the intervention scored significantly higher in math achievement and showed substantial improvement in behavior.

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A project was undertaken as the first of a four-part series of studies that investigated the impact of Student Success Skills (SSS). The SSS program is designed to teach academic, social, and self-management skills. The intervention includes both classroom and group counseling components. The goal was improved student behavior associated with school success and higher student achievement in math and reading as measured by state-mandated standardized tests. In a subsequent study, Brigman and Campbell (2003) found significant gains in targeted skill areas for students receiving the SSS intervention in grades 5, 6, 8, and 9. In addition, Webb, Brigman, and Campbell (2005) and Campbell and Brigman (2005) used the SSS approach to improve the academic achievement and behavior of students in grades 5 and 6. The SSS approach used in each of these studies was built on a set of skills and strategies consistently correlated with positive social skills and academic achievement (Eisenberg et al., 1997; Elias et al., 2003; Hattie, Biggs, & Purdie, 1996; Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001; Masten & Coatsworth, 1998; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1994; Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). This series of SSS studies grew out of previously reported research showing improved academic and social competence in younger learners whose teachers used the Ready to Learn curriculum (Brigman, Lane, Lane, & Switzer, 1994; Brigman, Lane, Switzer, Lane, & Lawrence, 1999; Brigman & Webb, 2003).

The SSS studies were designed to meet several needs. In 1998, a local school district invited a partnership with counselor educators at one of the state universities to assist the district in securing a grant aimed at evaluating the impact of school counseling interventions on student behavior and achievement. This partnership came at a time when educators and counseling professionals were responding to the widespread call for educational accountability as measured by improved student outcomes. This trend began to gain significant momentum for counselors with the development of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs in 1997 (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). These standards connected school counseling to education initiatives and the educational mission of schools and districts. As a result of these trends within the school counseling profession and the larger educational community, school counselor outcome data aimed at improved student learning began receiving increased amounts of attention (Carey, 2004; Dahir, 2004; Green & Keys, 2001; Gysbers, 2001; House & Hayes, 2002; Isaacs, 2003; Lapan, 2001; Myrick, 2003; Paisley & Hayes, 2003; Sink & Stroh, 2003; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). The SSS model also aligns directly with the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005) with its focus on academic and social competence.

In addition to responding to the needs of educators in the field and the counseling profession, the SSS studies provide the type of empirical research being called for by education and government leaders. The U.S. Department of Education, driven by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (U.S. Department of Education, 2001), calls for the use of programs and interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness through empirically based research. …