Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some thoughts, another alternative, and a request for input...

(Photo by pl1602)
At BCS the vast majority of students are behaving well.  There is a group of students at each grade level that need individualized attention to help them make better behavior choices.  PBIS will blanket the entire school with interventions and supports, when only handfuls of children need such interventions.  According to my research those students (called "high flyers" in PBIS lingo) do not respond even to PBIS-style interventions because they do not get to the root of the issue for the individual children.  PBIS with it's focus on rewards and consequences - with little or no emphasis on dealing with why the individual child is behaving unacceptably and lack of emphasis on developing "self" regulation and control -- does not meet the needs of those kids.   There are teachers in the building who have proven strategies for helping these children, teachers who do not use rewards and tickets  -- how are they doing it?  The committee deciding on PBIS has not investigated BCS's own success stories.

In addition, research shows giving rewards for behaviors already occurring has a negative effect on the continuation of those behaviors.  Giving rewards/tickets/incentives/prizes for behaving well to children already behaving well is not harmless.  Ask your child to tell you about the ticket system that may already be used in their classroom.  Ask your child if they have seen children stealing tickets to get a prize.  Ask your child if they have seen a child behave badly to be seen as behaving good -- i.e. knocking down a child only to be seen helping them up, thus winning a ticket.  Ask your child how he feels when he behaves well day after day because it's what is expected and the right thing to do and he genuinely wants to learn and then the consistently disruptive child manages to behave for a moment and gets a ticket or Student of the Month.  Ask your child about their impressions of being punished by the actions of a few when over and over they are denied "game day" or "time with clay" because the whole class consistently does not achieve three or more gold stars in a row.  My 7 year old is in charge of her own behavior and choices.  The behavior of the few children who consistently misbehave is not her responsibility, yet this "peer pressure" is a large part of PBIS.  She can behave herself until the proverbial cows come home, but she will never have "fun with clay" if the few disruptive children continue to go without having their needs met.  She doesn't need positive behavior supports and interventions.  She doesn't need tickets or rewards or prizes.  She needs the adults to step up and effectively manage the situation of the few children who consistently misbehave -- in a way that develops their own self-control and responsibility, not by applying a short-term reward band aid.  A disservice is being done to the children behaving well, and think of how this further worsens the situation for the "offender" who becomes "the one who always ruins it" for everyone else.

It has been determined that the areas where behavioral issues are most troublesome at BCS (lunchroom, recess, hallways, bathrooms) could be addressed by establishing clear expectations for the adults supervising in those areas.  

A set of clear, concise, developmentally-appropriate expectations for behavior and (inquiry based, engaging, authentic) learning with clear, consistent, positive modeling and reinforcement among all adult staff is a valid and important goal -- I'm on board with that.  We must recognize though, that many of our students already meet good behavioral expectations and it is a handful of students at each level who need extra support.  While we are at it, let's support the teachers and support staff in helping these children.  I believe our teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and students are capable of having this conversation, identifying the needs, establishing objectives, and developing and implementing our own solutions.  I do not think we need a complicated external program to get us to the goal.  However, it seems we have purchased the data piece of the PBIS program, so I offer yet another alternative to the blanket rewards/tickets/incentives-for-behaving-appropriately piece in the hopes we can incorporate it in a sort of hybrid method.

There are many alternatives to PBIS with a goal of guiding students to continue or develop their own self-control and responsibility.  BCS has not investigated any alternatives to PBIS.

Real Restitution is one such alternative.   As described at Real Restitution: 
Restitution focuses on relationships not rules. On responsibility, not obedience.   And on respect,  not gold stars. Research has repeatedly shown that when students and teachers treat one another with respect, the environment for learning improves and test scores go up.  Restitution is based on control theory which is a theory of internal motivation. Traditional discipline programs are based on stimulus-response psychology and focus on consequences either positive ones such as rewards or negative ones such as the removal of privileges or detention. Restitution teaches students self-discipline and skills needed to accept personal responsibility for one's actions. Restitution strengthens. The focus of restitution is restituting the self which teaches students to behave to be the person they want to be rather than to please others. An important part of this work is the social contract that includes the beliefs and values the teacher and students decide together are important. 

After you ask your child about tickets and rewards, student of the month, and star charts please share your story with a Board of Education member, other parents, and BCS staff including Mrs. Federico, Mr. Spino, Mrs. Spagnoletti, Mr. Connellan.  There is a belief that these tickets and rewards are harmless.  Is that your experience?