Program implemented in primary school causing upper grades to take notice

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Staff at the Cassville Primary School understand just how important instilling good behaviors in small children is, and they just about have the market cornered with what they have learned over the last few years after implementing their Positive Behavior Support (PBS) program.

According to Principal Catherine Weaver, students are expected to adhere to certain guidelines of behavior at school, called "Catitude Expectations," which include being respectful, responsible and safe.

"We also have individual expectations for each area, including how to behave in the bathroom, on the bus, in the hallway and in the cafeteria, and so those expectations all tie back to those three things," Weaver said. "It's called 'the matrix.' Those are consistent from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. The students know those [expectations] don't change."

Weaver said the program focuses on reinforcing positive behaviors, such as saying, "Walk in the hallway," versus, "Don't run."

Is it making a difference? The results on paper, and in reality, are surprising.

"Definitely," Weaver said. "When we first started, we did some data tracking for several years, and went back to our office referrals and classroom problems, and we were able to see a decline in the problems we were having. It was so impactful that the middle school began to notice a difference.

"The first year, when they noticed their good behaviors, they thought maybe they just had a good bunch of kids. The second year, when the behaviors continued, they were like, 'Wow,' and the third year, they were saying, 'Hey, there's something going on here.' So, they started to get on board with it, and they are in the process of refining their PBS expectations for incoming sixth graders."

As part of the PBS program, regular assemblies are held at the FEMA Center, where staff go out of their way to recognize and reward students for good behaviors and good attendance, which seems to be working by reinforcing the behaviors staff want to see.

"The PBS program was an initiative we started a few years ago with a PBS coach, a teacher we designated as a lead person, then we put together a PBS and attendance committee," Weaver said. "These came from the teachers working together to come up with different incentives. It was a building-wide initiative with everyone working on different levels to encourage kids to have good attendance and make good choices."

Children are recognized and rewarded for attendance and good behaviors in the classroom, on the bus, in the hallway, bathrooms and cafeteria, individually and as a class, with a variety of incentives children find exciting, such as ice cream, food party events, or special incentives or prizes.

"Golden tickets for great behavior is something we started," Weaver said. "That had to do with their behavior specifically in the cafeteria. One boy and one girl win a prize. And we give away fun, creative toys, not just any toy, but something they would really want and can learn from."

Sometimes staff pitch in out of their own pockets to buy gifts for the program to help it be successful.

"That's really impressive [when teachers do that]," Weaver said. "Depending on what we're focusing on, that's when we've done the popsicle parties, popcorn parties, etc. for the class with the fewest bus referrals, bathroom problems, and so on. And we come up with those in response to our discipline data."

The program has become so efficient, staff can target certain behavior issues at certain times of the year, and adjust the program accordingly.

"Because we have tracked data, we know we're probably going to have more problems at certain times," Weaver said. "They typically go up from April to May. So we can hone in on bus referrals, etc.. That way, we're hitting whatever is relevant at the time."

The teachers are the driving force behind the success of the program, Weaver said.

"They are the ones teaching the expectations and reinforcing them [on a daily basis], and they're doing the monitoring and supervising as well," she said. "I'm very grateful for my staff."

Weaver said she is planning to speak at some upcoming educational conferences about the success of the PBS program, which in the future may be implemented at other schools.

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