Behavior Reform in the School District 

By Melvin Hayden

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The alternative school is designed to introduce a variety of learning styles to change the outcome for school suspensions in grades 6-12. It has come to the attention of many state departments concerning education that smaller counties have suspended more students over a school year than larger counties. The traditional format of alternative setting was not the most popular format, nor was it working in the best interest of the kids. There had to be a plan for behavior reform because the reports across the nation reported more than 1,600 students were assigned to alternative school in any given semester. However, the real problem was that the students were not leaving. The school district had to look at the way students were being assigned and released from alternative school. The first thing was implementation. However, it was closely monitored that behavior reform had to start with the teachers. Teachers are the school personal who write discipline referrals. The behavior language had to change in order to decide what behaviors were time out worthy and what behaviors needed more extreme measures. 

The focus group of teachers came up with a behavior level 1 form that addressed the students need to be heard, without damaging property, becoming physically violent, or trying to hurt themselves. This form was first used in an elementary school on a trial basis. The teacher, staff, and parent were pleased with its simplicity and easy to read format, the district accepted the level 1 behavior form, and it began its use. This was a different approach than P.B.I.S. When training teachers, it’s wise to designate an experienced teacher with excellent communication skills and a good bedside manner to assist with training. The school developed a well-organized manual with an outline that previews its contents. It was a breakdown of each behavior topic into digestible chunks with a clear, logical order.

A good structure introduces broad concepts first, presents more detailed information step by step, then briefly summarizes key points (Hussey & Guo 2003). The manual does not just include information about day to day behavior issues. It communicated the school history, values, vision, and goals. The manual was to restart the culture of discipline in the schools, and retrain our staff on the impact we are trying to make on our students and parents’ community wide. The goal is to actively engage and represents the school culture of positive discipline. Additional resources vary from school to school, but might include annual reports, marketing materials, and old presentations. It’s wise to compile these for reference data in the upcoming months, as well as training tools for future professional development. 

However, we first, made sure that all teacher know that they can ask you for help if they need it. Then, have them complete tasks on their own based on what they’ve been trained to do. Let them know that they shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if they run into problems. Professional development opportunities were readily available to each teacher. These workshops were given each semester.  They are offered by a medley of different professional development providers and varying widely with respect to the philosophy, content, and format of the learning experiences. Some examples of approaches to professional development include: Case Study Method, were teachers are approached with presenting other teachers with a case, putting them in the role of a decision maker facing a problem. With consultation, a group of individuals addressed immediate concerns by following a systematic problem-solving process. However, coaching has been the districts development of choice lately, the reason is being in the moment of things. It’s to enhance a person’s competencies in a specific skill area by providing a process of observation, reflection, and action.

The largest barrier was limited ability to teach constructively. Even in the case of individual teachers who had a commitment to teaching for understanding and the development of critical thinking, there generally was a lack of full understanding of how to do it. For such teachers their dilemma was valuing teaching for understanding but not knowing how to organize and conduct their instruction in a manner that would produce the desired results. The specifics of the tensions experienced by the teachers varied, but the root problem was that they did not know how to achieve the results they desired (Shannon & Bylsma 2007). Furthermore, the steps taken to assist them in this regard fell short., because many teachers felt that had done or seen it all before. In many cases it may have been implemented, but not in the way we introduced it.

The biggest impact on the behavior reform has been the teacher’s attitude about what they consider behavior that needs to be removed from the learning environment. Creating new definitions on the language of what behavior is has stopped many students from being assigned to the alternative schools, and focused more on the why is this a behavior problem, than how do we get discard the behavior problem.

 

References

Hussey, D. L., & Guo, S. (2003). Measuring behavior change in young children receiving intensive school-based mental health services. Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 629–639. 

Shannon, G.S. & Bylsma, P. (2007). The Nine Characteristics of High-Performing Schools: A research-based resource for schools and districts to assist with improving student learning. (2nd Ed.). Olympia, WA: OSPI.

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