Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Solution Shop: A Solution-Focused Counseling and Study Skills Program for Middle School

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Solution Shop: A Solution-Focused Counseling and Study Skills Program for Middle School

Article excerpt

Solution Shop is a data-driven counseling and study skills program that specifically addresses the underachievement of students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Solution Shop provides an example of the key role professional school counselors can play in the school reform movement. This program is based on solution-focused counseling strategies and is consistent with a new role for professional school counselors.

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School reform is the business of every member of the school team and closing the achievement gap is the first priority of school reform (Stone & Clark, 2001). Professional school counselors, by virtue of their training and skills, are poised to play key roles in addressing the educational challenges facing schools. School counseling programs, as described in the American School Counselor Association's National Model for school counseling programs (2003), should be aligned with the National Standards and linked to the academic mission of schools (Campbell & Dahir, 1997).

Solution Shop, a counseling and study skills program, provides an example of how a professional school counselor can develop a program that addresses the academic needs of students of color and economically disadvantaged students. Middle school students with two or more failing grades are selected for the Solution Shop program. Ten students meet for one period a day, for one semester, with the professional school counselor. Each student in the program develops individual academic and personal goals. The students participate in solution-focused group counseling and study skill instruction for a portion of the class period and receive individualized tutoring during the remainder of the class period. At the end of the first year of the program, of the 35 students who participated, 57% improved their GPA and only 2 students (5.7%) had a lower GPA. Parents and teachers were involved in the referral and remediation process. Teachers and administrators were surveyed and report their perception that 75% of the students benefited from the program.

CONNECTING COUNSELING PROGRAMS TO SCHOOL REFORM

While experts debate the way to achieve equity for all children in schools, the facts are not in dispute. Despite early gain in closing the achievement gap in the 1970s and 1980s, the gap separating economically disadvantaged students and students of color from advantaged students began to widen (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). Students of color and economically disadvantaged students do not achieve at the same level as advantaged students. African American and Latino 17-year-olds, on average, read at the same level as White 13-year-olds (The Education Trust, 2001). Students of color drop out of school at higher rates than their advantaged peers; and even if they graduate from high school, they do not possess the necessary skills to be successful in the world of work or in college (Darling-Hammond, 1998; The Education Trust). The high school dropout rates for all students increased during the 1990s; however, for students from low-income families the increase was twice as high, 9.5% to 12.5%, as compared to the dropout rates of students from high-income families from 1.1% to 2.7% (NCES, 2002). The proportion of Latino and African American students completing high school and entering 2-year college programs has not changed in two decades (NCES, 2001).

Students of color and economically disadvantaged students are systematically excluded from the kind of educational opportunities that lead to success in high school, college, or the world of work (The Education Trust, 1999, 2001). While disadvantaged students complete elementary school with equivalent preparation to their advantaged peers, teachers at the elementary school level do not identify them as able to handle a more rigorous middle school curriculum. Students who do not complete subjects such as algebra in middle school are at a disadvantage in high school. …

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