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By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Success Story: Oxford Middle School

Our Behavior Manager statistics for Oxford Middle School showed extraordinary improvements this year.

  • Referrals down 25% from last year
  • Out-of-placement consequences down 51% from last year

I called Neil Burton, Assistant Principal at Oxford Middle School about their success.

Edclick: We noticed that referrals were down by 25% from last year and out of placement consequences were down by 51%. Are you doing something different to get these improvements?

Neil Burton: We have tried to move toward a PBIS model. We still include the punitive model in some respects but we have tried to shift toward that PBIS model as much as possible.

Oxford Middle School is not alone in this. Many folks assume that once they adopt PBIS, there will be no more misbehaviors. Not so. Misbehaviors are often significantly reduced but they don't disappear. Schools still need consequences when required.

Edclick: How did you do that? Are you teaching expectations early in the school year and rewarding positive behaviors?

Neil Burton: Exactly. We’ve always done that but not with the fidelity with which we tackled it this year. We can quickly give a child points for behavior…helping out someone or being responsible or accountable. That’s made a big difference.

There was also a change with out of school suspension. We changed our code of conduct. We try to keep every child in school unless it was a violent act or there was blood drawn, charges pressed or there was a knife or drugs…otherwise, instead of sending them home, we use ISS.

Improved behavior not only improves the atmosphere in classrooms making them more conducive to learning, it it reduces the amount of instruction time that students miss. This is a big benefit. Students who are out of class rapidly deteriorate achievement. This applies both to students who are sitting in the office waiting for a tardy slip and to students who get suspended. In addition to reducing the number of suspensions, schools can use innovative consequences which keep students in class. One example is Check In/Check Out.

Edclick: Do you use Check In/Check Out? We see that being used as an alternative to OSS. It has the benefits you’re talking about where you keep the kids in school yet you’re addressing the problem.

Neil Burton: We have used it with a few students.

Beware of the trap of simply mandating that teachers solve their own classroom behavior problems. They still need backup.

Edclick: Sometimes we hear a complaint from teachers where administrators are doing PBIS and they’re telling us that they can’t do referrals any more.

Neil Burton: We addressed that with the teachers getting started. We explained that we’re adding a carrot in front of the child. We’re not taking away the stick. We’ll still use the stick if needed…metaphorically. We’re just adding to the arsenal that the teacher can use.

We see that a lot of the teachers are really good at reinforcing positive behavior. At the end of the period they take the time to note that kids are responsible, accountable, working hard. They’re giving them points right then and there.

Keep in mind that when you're adopting proactive behavior methods, you're making a culture change and that it takes time. At Delay Middle School, the school that Behavior Manager was originally built for, the proactive behavior teaching got easier each year. After three years, when all of the original students had moved on, behavior management was much easier. It had become part of the culture. New students picked it up from the current students.

Edclick: We’ve seen that there’s a culture change in the school when you start using these techniques. Sometimes it takes time for the kids who aren’t of the new culture to move on. In the meantime, you’re teaching the new culture to each new incoming class.

Neil Burton: Yes, even though we’re using PBIS, kids are sometimes going to misbehave. We talk about above the line and below the line behavior. We have high expectations for our teachers. And we expect them to lay out high expectations for their students and follow them throughout the year. If they do, great. And rewards are appropriate. If they’re not, we empower teachers to address it. If they can’t, then we will. We do try to make sure that the teachers know that they have the autonomy to deal with the parents, make those phone calls, give their own detention. If that doesn’t work, of course, send them our way.

Congratulations to students and staff at Oxford Middle School for the great improvements this year!

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Keywords: sucess story, Behavior Manager, PBIS

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