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PAY DAY: Schools hoping discipline plans will pay off in better behavior

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By Alex Wimsatt

What’s the best way to discipline a student?

Many favor the traditional method of punishing students who misbehave, but as Jaime Goldsmith of Bullitt County Public Schools said, simply punishing a student may not always be the best recourse.

And while some might argue that positive reinforcement can be counterproductive, local schools are seeing fewer behavioral incidents among students with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports or PBIS.

PBIS focuses on a systems approach for establishing the social culture and individualized behavioral supports needed for schools to achieve both social and academic success for all students.

 PBIS efforts are promoted by KyCid, the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline.

Goldsmith, who is the KyCID coordinator for the district, said the primary goal of PBIS is to establish school wide expectations and help students better understand what’s expected of them.

Since BCPS’ first KyCID team got its start nearly a decade ago, just about every school in the district has gotten onboard with the initiative.

Eastside Middle School Principal Bonita Franklin, who admitted she didn’t think EMS needed KyCid when the school formed its own team last summer, said student behavior has improved by leaps and bounds in recent months thanks to PBIS initiatives.

KyCID teams analyze vast amounts of data to determine how students are progressing and which behavioral issues need to be addressed.

Eastside’s team found the biggest issue students were having revolved around organization and accountability, namely submitting assignments in a timely manner.

In February the school kicked of a PBIS initiative that rewards students for attendance and hard work.

The Pay Day program gives students the chance to earn points toward a permission slip good for a day at Holiday World amusement park in Santa Claus, Ind.

Students receive EMS Bucks and S.O.A.R. tickets for being at school and turning in their work on time or for performing above and beyond Eastside’s S.O.A.R. expectations of being safe, organized, accountable and respectful.

Each student keeps up with his or her EMS Bucks, which can be directly deposited or manually deposited into individual accounts.

Since the program began, the number of late and missing assignments has dropped considerably.

In January more than 700 incidents of late or missing were reported. By the end of February that number dropped to less than 50, according to Franklin.

“We’ve seen an unbelievable positive turn around,” the principal said.

Franklin said she believe the PBIS initiative is fostering good work ethic, which is one of the things the school focuses on to move students toward college or career readiness.

“It all goes back to work ethic,” she said. “If we were going to make students accountable we had to tackle the issue of missing work…The truth is these kids are going to enter a competitive employment field. If they can’t maintain good work ethic they won’t succeed.”

Eastside’s KyCID team formed around the start of the current school year after a select few teachers and administrators were trained in PBIS.

After receiving training in KyCID and PBIS, a handful of Eastside’s faculty took what they had learned back to Eastside where they versed the entire staff in the program.

“We are all advocates now,” Franklin said. “It has been a phenomenal program for Eastside.”

While Eastside has its Pay Day program, Goldsmith said every school has its own PBIS programs.

As Goldsmith explained, KyCID/PBIS is not a packaged curriculum. It’s not scripted intervention or manualized strategy.

Each school tailors their own PBIS initiatives to fit the needs of their students and school, which allows them to personalize their approach.

Goldsmith said there’s not KyCID school in the district that doesn’t like the program and most see improvement in student behavior with PBIS initiatives.

According to one study, KyCID middle schools reported 40 percent fewer student suspension from 2006 to 2009, while KyCID high schools saw 24 percent fewer suspensions during the same period.

KyCID schools also reported a 32 percent reduction in major disciplinary infractions, improved retention rates and an overall decline in high school drop out rates.

“Students need to be recognized behaviorally just as they are academically,” Goldsmith said. “When we spend less time on behavior we spend more time on instruction and that’s what we all want.”