Saturday, April 10, 2010

Update on PTO meeting held 4/9/2010

(Photo by flickr4jazz)
Two teachers receiving professional development were scheduled to present to the PTO.  Mrs. Federico and Mrs. Spagnoletti attended in their places.  It was stated the teachers could not arrange coverage for their classes.

Important points:
  1. Unfortunately, the decision to use PBIS at BCS has already been made (without a careful examination of alternatives).
  2. However, it is still unknown how BCS will implement the program and this is where we need to be vocal.  I believe we can still alter the path here, have a say in how PBIS at BCS is developed, and prevent a school-wide reward/ticket/token incentive system.
  3. It seems clear parental involvement will not be invited during the critical planning stages of how this program will be implemented at BCS and we will have to work hard to ensure we have a say. 


Here is MY take on things to the best of my memory and with my opinion throughout:
Goals identified by Mrs. Federico and Mrs. Spagnoletti at the meeting:
  • Improve consistency of behavioral expectations building-wide
  • Improve consistency in school responses to behavior issues
  • Have a system for record-keeping of children's behavior issues
  • Address behaviors in cafeteria, playground, bus, bathrooms
(I am thrilled these issues have been identified and a discussion is taking place.)
    Behavioral expectation matrices have been developed and reporting forms have been created.  These were shown to those present.  Data will be used to track student infractions and can be examined by grade, location, date, time, etc and will remain in child's record from year to year.  Punitive measures are clearly articulated.  Unclear is any response other than punishment to address the needs of the child - discuss what happened, identify triggers, show the child he/she has choices and guide him/her to making a different choice next time.  I would want to be sure this is part of the procedure otherwise where is the learning?  I suggested being sure it is not only the child and his/her behavior being examined, but also the classroom environment -- including issues both environmental (i.e. arrangement of furniture) and instructional (i.e. are lessons engaging, developmentally appropriate, taking into account good practice about how learners learn).  Oftentimes small changes in the classroom -physically and instructionally can alleviate a vast number of behavioral issues (the same holds true for the lunchroom, bus, bathroom, and hallway procedures).

    It was stated that members of the discipline committee have visited other schools using PBIS.  Mrs. Federico said the teachers who recently visited a school in Hebron reported it works beautifully.   She described an instance in which a child behaved courteously and politely and then was immediately handed a token by an adult.  (Beautiful? You decide.  I think it is creepy.)  I asked Mrs. Federico to be sure and research the schools that have decided to stop using PBIS and find out why.

    It was stated that 80% of BCS students have no behavioral issues and 10% are disruptive (not my math).  A question was raised about why we would institute a blanket, building-wide system of incentives/rewards/character development, etc aimed at addressing the behavior of 100% of the students when 80% of students have no issues and only 10% are disruptive.   If an answer was given, I can't remember it.  

    Again, it was stated PBIS, as designed, is a token system - tickets/tokens are given to children who are caught being good.  Much discussion followed regarding the use of ticket/token systems.  I stated many teachers at BCS use ticket systems and behavior charts in their classrooms and yet, according to what we see and are told, as soon as the ticket giving teacher is out of sight, i.e. in the bathrooms, cafeteria, on the bus, and in the hallways disruptive behavior occurs.  We have our own data and research right there: tickets do not promote responsibility.  I argued more tickets is not the answer.  I stated OUR responsibility to the children at BCS goes beyond just the years they attend the school -- it extends to their whole lives -- and a ticket system hinders that.  A PTO member stated how she sees this playing out in her business.  Young new hires are expecting to be rewarded and provided incentives for DOING THEIR WORK and performing the most basic tasks!  Tickets/rewards/incentives create a "what are you going to give me?" climate.

    PBIS does not have to incorporate tickets/tokens/rewards.  We can use the data portion only (which we have already bought).  We can combine it with other strategies such as Responsive ClassroomCollaborative Problem SolvingRaise Responsibility, or Quality Schools.  I see this as our goal now -- to ensure the ticket/token/reward system is not implemented and these other strategies further investigated (some of which are already being utilized in non-ticket/non-coercive BCS classrooms).

    Mrs. Spagnoletti stated children need motivation in the form of rewards/tickets/incentives.  However, research does not show this to be true in the long term or for meaningful tasks.  In fact, research shows that rewards/tickets/incentives DO HARM to human motivation.  I would urge you to watch Dan Pink describe the surprising science of human motivation.  He describes the effect of incentives in the workplace, but it applies to us all.  If you can't watch it, the text of his talk is here.  PTO members shared some of their own stories of how tickets/rewards/incentives have not increased their child's motivation, but have proven problematic.  The negative effects of the "Student of the Month" program were discussed.

    I noted there are classrooms at BCS that do not use ticket systems and behavior charts and in these classrooms the children are highly motivated.  They are engaged in their learning, committed to their classroom community, and they behave well.  Let's look closer at what goes on in these rooms and expand it in the rest of the building.  I suggested we do not need an external system, but rather we need to examine our own solutions.  

    Mrs. Federico explained discussions need to take place with the bus drivers, cafeteria staff,  and paraprofessionals (who are responsible for the children at lunch, at recess, and often in the hallways) to make BCS behavioral expectations clear and share solutions to the behavior problems that arise in these settings.  Solutions such as: 
    • enforce that paraprofessionals supervise children appropriately at recess, 
    • ensure bus drivers assign (and enforce) seats on their buses, and 
    • make improvements in the overall lunch experience to promote students behaving well
    I noted all of these concerns expressed were concerns about the behavior of some of the PAID ADULT STAFF and yet we are adopting a global behavior system aimed at the children.  It seems we already have solutions to these problems, we just need to implement and enforce them among the PAID ADULT STAFF.

    Mrs. Federico indicated it is unknown how PBIS will be fully implemented at BCS.  The members of the discipline committee are still learning about the program and have not attended all of the trainings yet.  The school has decided to utilize the program, but is still unclear, beyond the data piece, as to how it will be utilized.  While this is hard to defend -- committing to a program without a clear understanding of how it will be implemented -- I think in the end this is the only hope our students and teachers have.  What parts of PBIS to implement and how to do so are still undecided -- this is the place we can have some impact, but only if we speak up!  Again, I don't see us being invited to the table -- if we want a seat, we'll need to work for it!

    I asked Mrs. Federico if the majority of teachers were aware of the ticket/reward/incentive module of PBIS.  I was told they are not.  I asked if they have been asked for their input as to the specifics of how PBIS will be implemented at BCS.  I was told they have not.  So, those of us who are speaking up -- understand...we are doing this as much for our children as we are for the teachers.  The vast majority of BCS teachers do not know what PBIS might mean for them and their students.  We need to get them the information.  The teachers that do know and do not want it are in a difficult position.  We need to be their voice.

    I asked Mrs. Federico if she would commit to involving parents in the designing stages of this process.  She said she would gladly keep us posted on what is decided.  I restated my question, emphasizing that my request is for parents to be a part of the DESIGN and DEVELOPMENT stage of how PBIS will be implemented and I was not encouraged by her response.  I urged the PTO to make a formal recommendation to the BCS administration and discipline committee that parental participation/input be part of the DESIGNING STAGES of how PBIS will be implemented at BCS.  Specifically, we do not want only reports on what has been decided -- we want to be part of the decision process before it's too late.

    I urge you to speak up!

    I have been told countless stories by parents of the negative effects the current use of tickets/rewards/incentives at BCS has had on their child.  I urge you to share your stories with other parents, with teachers, with the BOE, with Mrs. Federico, and with Mr. Connellan.  And, do it quickly!  If you would like to share your story with me and/or have your story posted here, please email me at

    Some parents are upset the PBIS presentation was given at a meeting during the day - a time when many of them are working and could not attend.  This was addressed and Mrs. Federico (and possibly Mrs. Spagnoletti) agreed to present at the next PTO meeting, 7pm Tuesday, May 4th in the BCS library.