Monday, May 3, 2010

Please attend the PTO meeting on Tuesday, May 4th at 7pm in the library, PBIS presentation

I cannot attend the PTO meeting where there will be a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports presentation.  I did attend the one last month and I will be at the Board of Education meeting on May 12.  My husband, Paul, will be at the meeting with his own list of questions.  He's a teacher with 20 years experience in urban and suburban settings and among other things is a cooperating teacher (one who trains student teachers), a provider of professional development to other teachers, a mentor teacher (for the State Dept. of Education mentoring and evaluating new teachers), a life-long learner, and a father.  I encourage everyone and anyone to join Paul; to come and hear what will be presented to the PTO regarding PBIS at Bethany Community School, come to your own conclusions, and be heard.

Here is what I would share if I could be there:
  • BCS doesn't need a behavior program, as much as a philosophy.
  • BCS doesn't need a behavior program, as much as leadership.
  • BCS doesn't need a behavior program, as much as consistency, communication, collaboration, and community among both the PAID ADULT STAFF as well as the student body.
  • BCS doesn't need a behavior program, as much as it needs to support its teachers and paraprofessionals in teaching and learning and growing and stretching.
  • BCS doesn't need a behavior program, as much as it needs an engaging curriculum that emphasizes exploration over assessment.

Instead, BCS is taking the "easy way out" by purchasing a short-term, short-sighted, potentially damaging program. 

They'll call the rewards, prizes, and tokens "reinforcements", but do not be confused -- they are rewards, prizes, and tokens. 

They'll say the teachers identified the need and brought the program to the administrators, but do not be confused -- while it may have been a teacher or two who initiated this, it was most definitely not The Teachers as the majority of The Teachers knew nothing about it, continue to know nothing about it, and have not been asked for their input on adopting a program that will dramatically alter the culture of the school, and would not choose this approach.  Teachers may agree there are issues to be solved, but their voices have not been heard in HOW this will occur.

They'll say the vast majority of children behave properly and it's time they were recognized for it, but do not be confused -- the children who behave properly do it because it's what they do, it's what's expected (they want to learn, they are curious, they love their teacher, and they simply like being in class) and a paper paw print or a pizza party does nothing to truly recognize their efforts the way meeting the needs of the children who misbehave would; eliminating the misbehaviors thereby benefiting the whole class, for those who regularly behave and just want to learn AND for the child who regularly misbehaves. My consistently well-behaved kid doesn't want a paw print as much as she'd like the kids in her class to behave appropriately! She doesn't want a certificate, she wants the adults to take charge of the situation and rescue the learning environment from the few students who hold it captive. 

They'll say the children behave inappropriately on the bus, in the hall, on the playground, in the bathroom, and in the cafeteria, but do not be confused -- in each of these areas the situation could be improved if the ADULT PAID STAFF created consistent expectations, developed solutions that help students raise their responsibility, and then, held themselves accountable.

They'll explain enthusiastically about the awarding of paws, the filling of buckets, the choosing of names and rewards reinforcements, the assemblies, the character education, but do not be confused -- the use of rewards has a damaging effect on character development.  "Studies at the University of Toronto and Arizona State University show that external rewards for socially responsible behaviors are associated with less commitment for helping, caring, and sharing over the long haul." (

They'll tell you they have teacher and parent input, but do not be confused -- the teachers may have been surveyed about issues, but they were not asked their opinion of PBIS and a parent may have been added to the PBIS committee, but parent concerns were never heard during the decision and design stages of bringing PBIS to BCS.  

They'll tell you PBIS is the most effective program, but do not be confused -- they did not investigate any other approach because the State Department of Ed is promoting PBIS leaving an interesting money trail behind it all the way to NCLB.  

They'll tell you PBIS is research based, but do not be confused -- it is based on Skinner's research that people behave like pets and long term research does not show a positive correlation between rewarding good behavior and the continuation of that behavior.  

It has become clear to me that despite the fact that other approaches achieve the same goals of consistency and appropriate behavior -- the powers that be, the strong personalities driving the discussion, ARE NOT INTERESTED and do not care to investigate any approach other than blanketing all students with a program designed specifically as an alternative to restraint and seclusion of special education students. 

It has been suggested to me that I raise my awareness by reading a dog-training manual as evidence that reward systems work. They may work, in the short term - for tasks the dog child does not want to do, and for tasks that do not require high order thinking or responsibility. Obedience is essential for dogs - responsibility should be our goal for kids.

BCS has purchased this program without the input of teachers, paraprofessionals, BOE members, parents or students. BCS continues training select staff and purchasing the bells and whistles for this program. Despite this, however, I do believe that it is not too late to halt the program, truly identify the situation at BCS, explore alternatives, and design an approach for our school -- one with the development of responsibilty rather than obedience as the goal; one designed to meet the needs of those misbehaving (both adult and student) so they can participate fully in the BCS community of learners. 

UPDATE: (I removed the word offenders from that last sentence...I was using language not my own in a hasty and failed attempt to show how important and vital it is to meet the needs of the students - especially those reacting to the situation with 'misbehavior' and how this program does not account for that.)