Whitnall Middle School Reaps Rewards of Focus on Positives
The Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports program is aimed at improving student behaviors and learning atmospheres.
Instead of focusing on what students shouldn't do, a new program at Whitnall Middle School emphasizes the positives, and hopes they spread.
In place since the start of the school year, Whitnall Middle School principal Lynn Davies said she is seeing results. Incidents of fighting, harassment, insubordination and physical aggression have dropped significantly, and suspensions are down 50 percent.
The reason, according to Davies and her staff: PBIS.
Whitnall Middle School has joined hundreds of schools across the state in implementing PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction-funded initiative aimed at improving student behaviors and learning atmospheres.
So far, it is the only district school that has implemented the program, and Davies couldn’t be happier with how things are going.
“The teachers have taken this on as their baby and run with it and our school has become a better place because of their leadership,” she told the Whitnall School Board on Monday.
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PBIS promotes positive behaviors students engage in, and hopes those behaviors are repeated, or better yet, become contagious. And when they are repeated or spread, students theoretically spend less time out of class being disciplined and more time in class learning. In essence, students are being taught how to behave, from how to act on a school bus to what voice levels are appropriate in the cafeteria.
The main goal is to teach students the importance of being responsible, respectful and safe.
Members of the middle school staff worked hard over the summer to come up with a common language that is used by everyone in the building, from Davies to teachers to custodians to students. They also customized behavioral acknowledgement slips – both positive and negative – that are given to students throughout the day when they are deserved.
“The instruction doesn’t stop,” said Brian Carel, a seventh grade science and social studies teacher. “The teacher puts it on the desk, there’s not a big scene. The student knows what it’s for, and the instruction keeps going.”
The positive behavioral acknowledgement slips can be used to “purchase” small rewards such as pens, pencils and food from the Falcon Super Store.
“The students feel empowered because they feel comfortable, they feel safe,” Carel added.
PBIS is data-driven: behavioral acknowledgement slips, office referrals, attendance tardies and more are recorded and analyzed to see where troublesome issues persist and how they can be transformed into positives.
The middle school is currently in Tier 1 of the three-tiered program. The positive behaviors are expected to extend to at least 80 percent of the students. Once Tier 2 is implemented, presumably next fall, those remaining students get more targeted, individualized and intensive attention. Tier 3, the last of the program, is designed to give even more specific attention to those who need it.