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More resources for creating a safe, productive school environment

With the start of the school year fast approaching, and the list of “persistently dangerous” schools released yesterday by the state, student behavior is on the mind of many educators and parents. New and returning teachers alike plan procedures and systems to help their students focus on learning, and many wonder how they will be supported as they try to create a positive classroom environment.

Class rules, <em>by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindah/113841605/##LindaH##</em>
Class rules, by ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindah/113841605/##LindaH##

In response to last week’s post about restorative justice, a reader sent me a link to the Dignity In Schools website, which includes an annotated list of resources for schools that want to implement strong, positive behavior management systems, improve family involvement, and make schools safer. Worth a look; I could imagine whole schools or grade teams coming together to study and implement some of these ideas.

Of particular interest is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS), which focuses on prevention and takes a three-tiered approach to creating an environment conducive to productive behavior, targeting at-risk students with small-group and individual interventions, and providing intensive interventions for the minority of students with serious problems. It might not sound that different from what many schools already do, but perhaps is more coordinated across the whole school and includes greater staff involvement in identifying problematic behaviors and schoolwide solutions.

Common features of PBIS include:

a) an agreed upon and common approach to discipline, b) a positive statement of purpose, c) a small number of positively stated expectations for all students and staff, d) procedures for teaching these expectations to students, e) a continuum of procedures for encouraging displays and maintenance of these expectations, f) a continuum of procedures for discouraging displays of rule-violating behavior, and g) procedures for monitoring and evaluation the effectiveness of the discipline system on a regular and frequent basis.

The promise here lies in ability of a program to be both general – setting and supporting clear expectations for all – and individualized – addressing at-risk students’ needs in a flexible way.

As always, please share your in-the-field experiences in the comments or send an email to tips@gothamschools.org.

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