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New Student Discipline System Will Improve Academic Achievement, Educators Say

The "Positive Behaviors Interventions and Support" will allow educators to take a more proactive, positive approach to student discipline, school district officials say.

Imagine a new school discipline system that allows educators to track the location and nature of student behavior problems over a period of time and use that data to more effectively police school grounds.

Imagine a new school discipline system that takes a proactive, positive approach to student behavior, one that relies on a set of school-wide standards created by the school staff.

Now, stop imagining—because that system is already being implemented in schools across the Inver Grove Heights school district.

Called "Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support" (PBIS), the system was introduced during the 2010-2011 school year at the . After a successful inaugural year there, district officials chose to roll the program out this fall across all School District 199 schools.

Under the program, school staff identified the core values of the school, then used those values to create a "behavior matrix"—which sets easy-to-follow behavior standards for each area of a school, including the classroom, hallways and the cafeteria.

Students at the middle school were then taught the standards identified in the matrix and asked to abide by those rules, which range from turning in your homework on time to keeping your hands to yourself in the hallway. Staff at the middle school also promoted the behavior matrix by posting it in visible locations in hallways and classrooms.

Punishment under the new system is handled in relatively traditional way—with one exception. If a student violates one of the standards, school staff will ask the student to identify which behavior matrix standard he or she broke, which puts the responsibility for the infraction squarely on the student's shoulders, Inver Grove Heights Associate Principal Barbara Lake said.

The system is having a significant impact at the middle school, according to Student Discipline Facilitator Chad Klopp and teacher Kyle Golden, two middle school staff members who were instrumental in the introduction of the program.

PBIS allows educators to record and track the location of a discipline infraction, the nature of the problem, the students involved and the time of the incident, Klopp said. That data is compiled over time and used by educators to anticipate and respond to trends in student behavior. For example, if school staff identify a “hotspot” in the school where a high number of infractions have taken place, they can send more staff to supervise that area at the appropriate times, Klopp said.

But the greatest strength of the program lies not in its ability to track student behavior, but the consistency that it provides for students in the school, Klopp and Golden say.

Before the program was introduced, the middle school did not have a uniform discipline system, Golden said, which meant students had to learn as many as seven different sets of rules—one for each classroom and teacher they had. But now that the school is using one universal system, he added, students can spend less time focusing on the rules, and more time on their academics.

Already, Golden said, he is seeing fewer tardy students in his classes—which he attributes to PBIS.

"The students are understanding that the teachers are all on the same page," Golden said. "All of those behaviors are addressed, and they’re addressed the exact same way. That consistency will provide results."

Ultimately, Klopp hopes PBIS will change the atmosphere and culture within the middle school and improve student achievement in the building.

“What we’re doing is trying to strengthen the right behaviors, the acceptable behaviors, and trying to give kids a way of thinking about things," Lake said. "Everybody within that system says, 'This is how we going to live.'"

Click here for more information about PBIS.

To view the "behavior matrix" for the Inver Grove Heights Middle School, click on the PDF file attached to this article.

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