Summit County schools: Written up for good behavior
Ryan Summerlin September 24, 2012
At Dillon Valley Elementary, the children walk quietly down the hall in a single-file line with their hands by their sides or behind their backs. In the cafeteria, they walk instead of run, clean up after themselves, and speak in a quiet manner. In the classroom, they raise their hands and work cooperatively with each other.
While these are all basic expectations one would find in any elementary school, the difference at DVE, as throughout the rest of Summit School District, is that the behaviors have been taught – there’s no assumption that each and every student automatically knows each and every rule.
The children’s demeanors are a result of a behavioral framework called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a management tool used in schools across the country. The model is something DVE principal Cathy Beck has been involved with since 2006, and was just implemented districtwide this school year. In DVE, stations were set up and manned by teachers around the school to let children know how they’re expected to act in the hallway, the cafeteria, classroom, the bathroom, and even how they’re expected to speak to adults.
“There was no question as to what we expected,” Beck said. “It was wildly successful … the teachers were blown away.”
Even the school custodian has mentioned that everything’s cleaner.
“While education has become more proactive, discipline has remained reactive,” said Jim Smith, Summit High School’s dean of students. The high school fully implemented the program this school year. “You wait for a child to break a rule, and you correct it with punishment.”
And that’s how PBIS differs – it’s proactive in the behavior department.
“PBIS is the conscious teaching of behavioral expectations … having a consistent expectation of all students and all staff,” Smith said.
So while the same behavior is expected of students, the same goes for staff – the discipline process is universal, meaning one child that’s late for class will be treated the same as another in a different class. Adults are also supposed to model the behavior – if the children are expected to be quiet in the hallway, so are the staff.
The whole framework is really about changing adult behavior as to how they help set children up for success, Beck said.
At the high school, there’s already been a reduction in misbehaviors. As Beck points out, more time spent sitting in the principal’s office waiting for discipline means less time spent learning in the classroom.
“Our discipline numbers have improved significantly,” Smith said. “All of our minor infractions, I would say our numbers have dropped.”
But the most important part of the program, Smith said, is the acknowledgment of good behavior. At DVE, staff makes sure to give children encouragement when they’re doing something correctly, and when enough students go above and beyond, the school will donate to charity. At the high school, good behavior is written down on “tiger pride strips,” which students can put into a bin for a weekly drawing. Last week, there were five winners; prizes included gift cards to Cameez Frozen Yogurt and Coffee in Frisco (Smith said he’ll accept donations for prizes). At the high school, one student was rewarded with a pride strip for cleaning up after another left their trash on a cafeteria table. The strips aren’t bribes, Smith said, but rather “written pats on the back for good behavior.”
“We’re actually writing students up for good things,” Smith said. “We’re not just looking for the wrong things, we’re looking for the right things.”