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Jonesboro Middle School Case
Jonesboro Middle School (JMS) has a population of 558 students, a 65% poverty rate and sits in the center of Clayton County, Georgia. JMS is also a model demonstration school for the state of Georgia's Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support efforts. Like hundreds of schools across the United States and Canada, JMS has found that implementing School-wide Positive Behavior Support can have many benefits.
In 2003, JMS was one of several middle schools in Clayton County that received a stipend to send a team of staff members to a 3-day training on a schoolwide PBIS effort that Georgia calls Effective Behavioral and Instructional Supports (EBIS). The team that JMS sent, included: the assistant principal in charge of data and discipline, representative core teachers from each grade level, representative special education teachers, representative staff members, and a parent representative. The presenters of the training had the participants' attention within the first five minutes as they spoke of reducing office discipline referrals by 20-60% and dealing effectively with a wide range of behavior problems. The momentum of the JMS team grew with each training day. The JMS team learned how to develop capacity by successfully implementing the following characteristics of EBIS:
- Using Data-based Decision Making
- Developing a Simple Set of Behavioral Expectations
- Teaching Behavioral Expectations
- Acknowledging Appropriate Behavior
Using Data-Based Decision Making
On the third day of the training event, Laura Riffel spoke to the teams about the School Wide Information System (SWIS), an on-line data collection and analysis tool to support databased decision-making. During her presentation, Laura noticed that the assistant principal of JMS looked angry. When the assistant principal got up to take a short break, Laura went over to the JMS table to ask team members what might be wrong. The team told her that the assistant principal had spent the entire summer pulling office referral data together and laboriously entering it into an Excel file so he could identify trends in problem behavior. The assistant principal was anguished to learn that with the click of one button, the SWIS program could create graphs on school-wide problem behaviors that included infraction type, location, time of day, average referrals per day and more. Once the assistant principal of JMS had finished mourning his loss of time, he was ready to set his team to work.
Developing a Simple Set of Behavioral Expectations Agreed Upon by Staff
The JMS team developed 3 simple rules, or behavioral expectations, for their school. Once they were developed the team took the expectations to the entire staff for approval. The staff settled on the following set of behavioral expectations:
- Be Respectful of Self, Others, and Property.
- Be Responsible and Prepared at all Times.
- Be Ready to Follow Directions and Procedures.
After the school staff agreed on the basic behavioral expectations, they worked in small groups to define what the expectations would look like in each area of the school. For instance, they decided that being "respectful" on the school grounds meant "picking up trash or litter and putting it in the proper receptacle". To ensure students would see the rules for any area they happened to be in, the team printed area specific rules on brightly colored posters and placed them in every part of the school (e.g., hallway expectations, restroom expectations, lunchroom expectations, etc). The staff also came up with a school motto: "Do it the Jonesboro Way".
Teaching Behavioral Expectations
At the 3-day training, the JMS team learned that it isn't enough to develop expectations; we should teach them overtly to students. With such a long list of specific behavioral expectations, the next step for the JMS team was to identify what they should teach first. They used the surveys provided during the training and learned that the staff perception was that clearly defined and consistent consequences and procedures for undesirable behaviors needed to be developed. The JMS team determined that everyone needed to respond to students the same way so they set to task teaching the teachers "How to do it the Jonesboro Way." They all agreed on what they were going to expect for things like attendance, tardiness, student attire, and student behavior in the school. The team made displays of what a Jonesboro student dressed like which showed respect for learning. There were pictures of the dress code, inappropriate and appropriate. There were backpacks and notebooks that were organized compared to those that weren't organized. This was the first thing that parents and students saw when they walked in the building. They went through everything that was important to them and determined how they were going to teach, "Doing it the Jonesboro Way."
Acknowledging Appropriate Behavior
The trainers at the 3-day EBIS event also demonstrated to the JMS team that if they want students to engage in appropriate behaviors, they should devise a system for rewarding such behaviors. The JMS team went a step further and came up with a unique system for rewarding both students and teachers.
To acknowledge the good behavior of students, the team decided on a "Gotcha" system that would be brought to the office to be traded for a small prize such as ice cream at lunch. They introduced the gotchas to the teachers and instructed them on how to use them. They made sure that the entire staff understood that these were not to be given out to every child in their class; rather, the staff was to monitor the non-classroom areas looking for good examples of "Doing it the Jonesboro Way" and giving a gotcha for a specific exemplar.
This is why unsuspecting students who picked up trash on the school grounds were surprised by the assistant principal jumping out of the bushes or coming out from around a tree to give them a gotcha for picking up litter and respecting property. Word spread quickly of the assistant principal's penchant for positives and the grounds have never looked lovelier. Students in the cafeteria are quick to assist someone who drops a tray because they never know when someone will be watching to give them a gotcha for respecting their neighbor.
The student names are also drawn once a month and read over the intercom. These students are invited to attend a very special luncheon. The stage, which is in the lunchroom, is decorated with a table complete with tablecloth, decorations, and musical accompaniment. The children are served pizza and soda pop and dessert is usually a small sweet treat. Do they treasure this lunch date? The teachers report that it is a huge hit. It's not because of the pizza or the soda pop. The teachers will tell you that what means the most to them is the attention they receive. Mr. Hill, the assistant principal eats lunch with them and all the other students in the cafeteria see them on the stage having a wonderful time for "Doing it the Jonesboro Way." Their friends cheer them on for their "getting picked."
It's not just the students who get rewarded at Jonesboro. The students are allowed to come tell Mr. Hill that they would like to give a gotcha to a teacher. They have to tell him what it is the teacher has done to earn a gotcha. The teacher's names all go into a drawing. If their name is drawn they don't announce it over the intercom. Instead they get a big surprise at the end of the day. They get goosed. Mr. Hill walks into their classroom 30 minutes before the end of the day with a large ceramic goose. The teacher knows that goose stands for (Get Out Of School Early). The teacher leaves her class and is free to leave for the day. Mr. Hill stays and teaches the rest of the lesson. This lets him get to know the students and lets the teacher know how much her students and her administrators appreciate her.
Last year, JMS dealt with 1,252 office discipline referrals (ODR). This year they only dealt with 674 ODR. Assuming the average ODR takes approximately 15 minutes for each, this is a savings of 8,670 minutes. This is equivalent to 145 hours or almost 21 days. That is a month more of contact time that the staff had to spend instructing and interacting positively to their students. Justin Hill took the data even further. He has directly correlated ODR to achievement test scores. Teacher for teacher, the lower the ODR the higher the achievement scores for each.
Positive Behavior Support for Bus Drivers
One of the non-classroom areas in primary PBIS intervention should be the bus. Most administrators will attest to the fact that many issues arise at the bus stop or on the bus. Bus drivers are trained in driving the vehicle, maintaining the vehicle and handling emergencies. The strategies for dealing with targeted behaviors in the classroom will not be useful to the bus driver. The bus driver training provided in this section will focus on three areas: 1) riding the bus, 2) providing inservice to the drivers, and 3) providing follow-up support.
Before any training can occur, it is imperative for the trainers to actually ride a few buses. It is nearly impossible for the bus drivers to believe the message, if they do not believe the people delivering the message know what they deal with on a day in and day out basis. Ideally, the riding of the buses should occur about a week before the training as this gives the drivers time to tell each other who rode their bus. Empathy is a very important part of the training.
Bus drivers are usually available from 9 a.m. till about 2 p.m., therefore two days of training is optimal but the training can be shortened to one day if necessary. The PowerPoint below will guide the trainer through the steps giving the bus drivers opportunities to share their thoughts and develop their own tools. The more information generated by the drivers, the better "buy-in" from the drivers.
Ideally, the bus drivers would like to make their own videos about appropriate behavior on the bus. Some bus drivers have developed a song about riding the bus, some have developed cheers, and some develop movies using their own children as the appropriate role models on the bus.
The booklet below is also a useful tool for giving the bus drivers more tools for their toolbelt in dealing with children's behavior while riding the bus. These strategies have been field tested in some of the largest cities in the United States and have proven effective in bus driver satisfaction and decreased office discipline referrals for bus behavior.