When we announced Porters Point School’s efforts to pioneer a new program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) back in early August, we promised an update on how the implementation process was going. This is that promised update!
As we described in our introductory article, the overarching concept of PBIS is that recognizing students who make good choices is a far more effective strategy in managing behavioral issues in our classrooms than focusing upon those who struggle to do so. By focusing upon positive behaviors, the overall climate of our schools is expected to improve over time, fostering a greater sense of community and respect and enhancing the learning environment.
PPS was required to have a minimum of 80 percent buy-in from its staff in order to apply for the PBIS program—and a full 100 percent of its faculty and staff agreed to support it. (One hundred percent! That’s incredible!) An implementation committee at PPS consists of representatives from administration, guidance, fine arts, special education, and each grade level. The committee also routinely requests input from support staff, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and even the town’s ACE program as part of its efforts to ensure a universal application of the program. PBIS is closely tied with the concepts described in the Responsive Classroom; that is, the idea that social curriculum is every bit as important as academic curriculum, and thus, both behavior management and academics are integrated into the program. Developing appropriate social skills, especially early on in education, aids in creating an environment for successful students—later to become successful adults and community members.
A key element to remember about PBIS is that it is a research-based, data-driven behavior management program, and concrete methods of documenting and analyzing the process are built firmly into it. Using the School-Wide Information System (SWIS), administrators at PPS can track and analyze behavior-related data in a number of different ways. For example, incidents of behavior issues can be analyzed by the type of problem behavior, by the locations where the behaviors occurred (did this happen on a bus? On the playground? In the cafeteria? In the classroom?), by the time of day, and by individual student. In this way, administrators can review this carefully recorded data in order to identify trends in behavioral issues in order to determine where additional efforts around behavior modification can be most effectively focused. In other words, a more effective, targeted effort can be applied to behavioral challenges as a result of this program. This minimizes a subjective approach to the challenges our educators face in dealing with challenging behaviors, thereby helping to improve the overall quality of education for all students. PPS’s work to institute PBIS into its overall curriculum is also highly complementary to the district’s comprehensive bullying-prevention strategy.
PPS is employing a number of simultaneous approaches to successfully implement PBIS into its curriculum. One major component is the “warm fuzzies” project. Students earn the “warm fuzzies”—brightly colored pom-poms—for demonstrating positive behaviors. Each learning environment (each class, the library, the gymnasium, and so on) has a transparent, bear-shaped container into which the warm fuzzies earned by the students are deposited—and a filled bear container equates to class-wide and school-wide celebrations. Whenever a student receives a warm fuzzy from a faculty or staff member in recognition of safe and respectful behavior, he or she receives an explicit explanation for why the warm fuzzy was given to help reinforce the value of positive actions and their resulting positive impacts upon the entire school community. And have you visited the school recently and seen the prominently displayed new signage reminding students of PPS’s three core expectations (be safe, be respectful, and be ready to learn)? The students are routinely reminded of these expectations using common language so that the concepts are continually reinforced.
Furthermore, PPS’s teachers are reinforcing these concepts through books they read aloud to their students, including author David Parker’s I Show Respect!, author Tom Rath’s How Full Is Your Bucket? (For Kids), and author Carol McCloud’s Have You Filled a Bucket Today?. And the school is developing a presentation about PBIS for parents, as well.
You can also follow PPS’s own blog about PBIS on their website.
There are a number of important supports in place for PPS’s educators, as well. In addition to colleague support, the Vermont Department of Education also offers ongoing training and support, and teachers have also participated in the BEST (Building Effective Support for Teaching Students with Behavioral Challenges) conference.
For more information, please e-mail Principal Jim Marshall or call Porters Point School at (802) 264-5959. The national PBIS website and Vermont’s PBIS website also have a wealth of information on the subject.
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