Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Connections through Clubs: Collaboration and Coordination of a Schoolwide Program

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Connections through Clubs: Collaboration and Coordination of a Schoolwide Program

Article excerpt

The "Connections Through Clubs" program provides all students with the opportunity to participate in a small-group extracurricular activity and mentoring experience led by school faculty, staff, and community members during the school day throughout the academic year. This schoolwide program was developed in response to identified school needs and as a means to facilitate a strengths-enhancing school environment and to promote the developmental competencies of all students, both of which have been linked to academic and personal success. The purpose of this article is to describe the inception, implementation, and preliminary evaluation of the Connections Through Clubs program. In addition, the school counselor's collaboration, coordination, and advocacy efforts to implement this program are highlighted.

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The conference room was filled with discouraged and frustrated teachers and administrators. For the first time since our intermediate fifth-and-sixth-grade school's development, it appeared we had not made the expected growth in our end-of-grade achievement test scores. Our faculty was hardworking and dedicated to the academic growth of students. We all wondered how this could have happened. Our principal told us that something had to change. This coming year had to be different. But neither she nor anyone else in the room had a clear idea of how or what to do. We knew that if we were discouraged as a school improvement team, the rest of our faculty would be discouraged as well. This was not a good way to start the school year.

The conversation and discussion led in a natural direction. We needed to improve our test scores, so obviously we needed to focus on improving academics. Teachers began to discuss the extra programs that we would need to eliminate in order to get "more classroom time." Someone began writing a list of the extra activities to be eliminated to get more academics into the school day: recess, mentoring, yearbook time, English as a Second Language pullout, and, although no one said it, I knew my groups and individual sessions would eventually be on the list. I thought, "Well, I'll do what I need to do to help the school with test scores. Perhaps all my groups would be based solely on academics and study habits this year."

This is the experience of the first author. The initial response to this situation described here may be common in this age of accountability, in which student "growth" is measured primarily, if not exclusively, by standardized tests. The focus of schools has thus become teaching tightly prescribed content knowledge and related skills in order to meet state benchmark standards set for subjects (Scales & Toccogna, 2000). It seems that if we are focused on test scores as the measure of success then the solution to failure is to address the problem through remediation of selected students (or teachers) and focus more time on teaching the content and skills related to the test. However, there may be other ways to address student growth and promote student achievement.

ANOTHER WAY

Findings from research conducted through the Search Institute provide a strengths-based conceptual framework for promoting positive development in youth (Scales, 2000). Forty developmental assets have been identified and the number of assets that a youth has is directly related to positive behaviors including success in school (Scales, 2000, 2005). These protective factors that promote success in youth may be both internal (developed by the individual) as well as those that can be developed in the environment (Scales, 2000). With regard to protective factors in the environment, there is an increasing body of research indicating that the number and quality of interactions between adults and students, student feelings of belongingness and of being cared for, and positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and students have been linked to decreases in students' at-risk behavior and, perhaps most importantly, higher levels of emotional well-being, motivation, and academic and social success (Brooks, 2006; Gilman, Meyers, & Perez, 2004; Wentzel, 1997; Wentzel & Watkins, 2002). …

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