By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays USD 489 implemented a new behavior policy that has reduced office referrals.
The model, Positive Intervention Behavior and Supports, focuses on positive reinforcement and setting clear expectations in common areas as well as individual classrooms. At the school level, the system is known as Foundations. At the classroom level, it is known as CHAMPS for the younger students and ACHIEVE for the older students.
CHAMPS stands for conversation, help, activity, movement, participation and success. ACHIEVE stands for activity, conversation, help, integrity, effort, value, efficiency. These words refer to questions teachers or school staff ask when creating guidelines for their classrooms or school areas.
School psychologist Kyle Carlin gave an example of how the system works. He used the example of running in the hall.
Instead of reprimanding a student and telling them, ‘Don’t run,” the teacher might say, ‘Please walk.” The teacher might also reinforce the positive behavior by asking the student to practice walking down the hall.
Wilson Elementary School has concentrated on make changes on its playgrounds. In a survey last year, about 40 percent of second through fifth graders said they did not feel safe on the playground. Fifty-four percent of the office referrals were coming from the playground.
The school wrote specific rules for the playground and rules for specific pieces of equipment, which they taught to students. They encouraged children to play in the Wilson Warrior Way and created the acronym PLAY.
This stands for proper use of equipment and body; listen, load up equipment and line up quickly; always be kind with hands and words; and you are in control, be respectful and responsible.
They also retrained their playground monitors, increased the number of supervisors on the playground and zoned the playground with each playground supervisor in charge of a specific zone.
The number of office referrals from the playground decreased by 75 percent, Anita Scheve, Wilson principal, said.
The school is extending the CHAMPS model beyond the playground to the lunch room and hallways. The school moved its recess from after lunch to before. Teachers said the students are returning to class more settled, and the lunch room is throwing away 30 percent less food.
Scheve said before the school implemented positive disciple, there were children lined up in her office to see her for disciplinary reasons. That has been cut dramatically. Scheve said she is focusing on restorative justice.
“While I believe in natural consequences,” Scheve said, “I don’t want to punish. I just want to reteach. That is the principle. Let’s teach behavior like we teach everything else. Let’s assume that they want to do the right thing. Let’s set them up to do the right thing.”
Scheve and the school counselor are also working daily with students who have had repeated discipline problems. They help the students create strategies on how they are going to focus on positive behavior through their day.
Hays Middle School has focused on reducing congestion in the hallways. Craig Pallister, HMS principal, said the school is trying to deal with the issue of overcrowding in hallways and the lunch room after the latest school bond issue failed. The bond issue would have renovated the cafeteria, which was not designed to accommodate the 675 students the school now serves daily.
Signs were hung to remind students about rules during passing periods. Falcon images were placed on the floor in certain areas, and staff members have been assigned to stand on these spots and give positive reminders of the rules to the students during passing periods.
The school used the CHAMPS process to reorganize its cafeteria. Milk coolers were moved outside of the cafeteria and students are now lining up outside the cafeteria to free up more room. However, as the school continues to grow, Pallister said the school may be forced to increase its window for serving lunch. It is already serving lunch from 10:55 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Each school has a team that is working on implementing these new strategies in common areas, such as cafeterias, hallways, parking lots and playgrounds.
“They are looking at those areas and developing policies and procedures that are predictable and consistent,” Carlin said. After they have developed those policies and procedures, they then go and explicitly teach those to kids because we know kids are more likely to meet our expectations if they know what they are.”
Consequences are natural, but they should be more instructive to make sure the next behavior is more appropriate than the last one, Carlin said.
Carlin continued with the example of the student who ran in the hallway. Once they have been asked to model the positive behavior, which was walking, the next time they pass the spot they will remember they the need to be walking.
“It helps them know what to do instead of, ‘If I don’t do the right thing, I am going to get punished,'” he said. “We know that doesn’t have the same level of effectiveness as other strategies.”
CHAMPS also addresses expectations within a specific classroom. The expectations concerning things such as talking might not be the same in a physical education class as it might be in an English class. Even though expectations may be different from class to class, there is consistency within the class, and that helps students build trust with a teacher, Carlin said.
As students get a little older—about third grade—they can participate through surveys to help school officials identify areas that need work. They don’t dictate the policies, but they do get to have input, he said.
“We know when students have input into the process, there is more buy in from them on those rules. They are more likely to follow those rules and expectations,” Carlin said.
Sometimes adults don’t see what kids see, or the presence of an adult changes children’s behavior, he said.
“Kids have really good insight into things in their school, and their voice is very valuable to have as a part of that,” Carlin said.
Carlin said he wanted parents to know the schools want their input on the changes, as well.
The models for positive behavior can also be used at home, and Carlin said he uses the techniques with his own kids. He suggested providing positive reinforcement as opposed to negative, setting expectations, providing structure and using positive instructions when trying to elicit a behavior change.
“While there is a purpose for various consequences, the more we rely on punishing consequences, the less likely we are to get the change in the behavior,” Carlin said. “We want to make sure when we do correct behavior, it is going to get us more effective behavior in the future.”