Creating A Supportive School System

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This week I spent a few hours learning about one school’s journey to create a supportive system for the academic and social/emotional/behavioral development of their students.  The purpose was to understand  how their system worked and to problem solve around areas of need.  Our work revolves around helping schools implement comprehensive and supportive systems that are tailored to the building’s specific needs.

To guide the conversation, we have a principal packet with key forms and information.  The important document is our Multi-Tiered System of Support Planning Tool (fondly referred to as the “Plan-O-Rama“.

The first section is vital as it is an area where the specific data-based needs of the school are clarified.  This, essentially, is the school’s own ‘story” around discipline and behavior.  All of our work together is designed with this in mind; creating calm, predictable and engaging environments is the goal.

Here is what I learned about this school

  • They are a large elementary nestled in a large district with a fairly “needy” population of students (compared to other schools in their district)
  • They have a dozen newly hired teachers and more seasoned teachers as well.  All  are bright, innovative and dedicated
  • They were able to hire two educators to develop a tier-two plan for supporting the teaching of social/emotional and behavioral skills to students in need. They work directly with just under 100 students.   These educators also provide coaching and support to classroom teachers.  They support the Success Room.
  • Students who do not respond well to  tier-two interventions  are taken to the next level of support with a highly individualized plan just for them.  They have a team that meets regularly to help classroom teachers design these support plans.
  • The school has a well-detailed body of expectations that are taught to teachers, students and parents.  The entire discipline system is embodied in their expectations.  Many pro-active and supportive pieces exist within this framework, pulling from the philosophies of Conscious Discipline and other programs.
  • They collect and use data around referrals, analyzing the types of problems the school experiences as well as where problems occur.  Interventions are created based on need.  The entire staff participates in these problem solving sessions.
  • As with most schools, many difficulties happen in the classroom.  It is possible that teachers are inconsistent in how they prevent and respond to mild disruptions.  Routines may not be established.  Teachers may benefit from discussion and learning around classroom organization, routines, expectations and teaching and practicing  what they want to see.

The Plan

This is a great school.  Much thinking has gone into the culture they have created.  There are so many strengths; areas of need appear to be located at the classroom level.  While teachers are motivated and engaged, there may be some areas for them to grow.

  • a needs assessment will be sent to individual teachers around the systems and organization of their individual classroom environment
  • two days of professional learning will be tailored specifically to the self-identified needs of the school
  • a plan for “roll-out” and follow-up coaching will be designed with the entire staff
  • coaching will be designed with a way to evaluate  effectiveness using original goals as the target

We look forward to learning and growing together!  

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Thinking Through the Roadblocks: PBIS

Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) is a school-wide  framework that offers buildings the opportunity for culture change.  Implemented well, within a response to intervention (RTI) system that offers a wide array of creative, comprehensive options for academic and behavioral challenges, research on PBIS is promising.  It reduces the need for special education referrals.  It reduces the number of suspensions.

Most common misperceptions?  

  •  PBIS is all about extrinsic rewards.
  • All kids don’t “need” it, so why should we do it?

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

PBIS is a comprehensive framework that is most effective when embedded in the school’s improvement plan/goals AND in collaboration with an RTI model around academics.  The beauty of PBIS, really?

  • develops predictable routines in common areas
  • creates common language for staff and students
  • focuses on teaching routines/expectations instead of punishing
  • helps staff think through expectations for activities and procedures
  • helps administrators think through expectations of staff and students
  • keeps staff and administration communicating about their school culture
  • helps school teams develop alternatives to suspension

Reward systems are part of PBIS and research across many buildings indicate it works.  However, reward systems are only a small part of the bigger picture.  During our professional learning and implementation support, we encourage buildings to determine if this part is necessary for them.  If they are not comfortable with it, we help them implement without.  After all, if the data indicates the climate is fine, why tamper with what works for them?

PBIS is not needed for you?  This may be true for teachers who  are incredibly effective at building relationships.  Maybe you are consistent, positive and  able to manage all difficulties within your classroom.  But look around.  Is this true for every classroom in your building?  District?   Is it possible that your building or district needs it, despite your success?   The consistency, predictability  and routines that PBIS supports offer are vital for children who come from chaotic, unpredictable communities/homes.  Your demographics may not include these students.  They may, but you might be effective regardless.   Still, the benefits of PBIS done well are clear.  They work for everyone, everywhere.  This is about the building, not the individual teacher alone.

So, what does it take to become a high implementor of PBIS?

(1) Teacher commitment to the initiative needs to be developed and reinforced. Communication of guidelines and the rationale for practices could facilitate teacher buy-in. Systematic use of data to demonstrate the effectiveness of PBS practices was also linked to teacher buy-in.
(2) Clear implementation guidelines should be provided to all school staff through a structured system of professional development and information dissemination. The guidelines need to help teachers respond positively to an often diverse population of students. They also need to encourage consistent and appropriate implementation of the rewards system based on a shared understanding of PBS in the school.
(3) Systematic data collection and use allows teachers and administrators to monitor the nature, location, and frequency of smaller disciplinary infractions before they become larger issues.
(4) Including student input in data-based decision-making can be useful in addressing barriers associated with the rewards system, including selecting appropriate rewards and monitoring the consistency with which rewards are offered.
(5) PBS orientation/training for new and substitute teachers could increase the consistency of application within the school. Similarly, refresher training may be needed for more experienced teachers. However, given the limited resources for professional development and the experience of some teachers with PBS, creativity in how to provide the training – to whom, when, and in what format – will be needed.

Resources

Positive Behavior Support in Delaware Schools

Identifying Implementation Barriers and Facilitators in PBIS

OSEP:  PBIS