How to Improve School Attendance

A Practical Guide for Schools and School Districts
A Project of the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council


Module 2: Student Discipline and Positive Behavioral Support — 8

The Story of Christa McAuliffe High
(Challenger Memorial Youth Camp) — 2

Many staff members at McAuliffe High have served in their positions for years, and have been understandably leery about yet another program purporting to fix problems. Administrators were careful to convey that PBIS is not simply a "coin-operated" program that comes in a box with all the pieces waiting to be slotted in—soon to be replaced by whatever new initiative comes into fashion—but that it is truly a framework for how an entire school site can be managed. The inservice training demonstrating what school-wide PBIS would look like in dealing with specific staff-identified behaviors helped increase receptivity to the program. Some staff members remain hesitant to get on board, however, so the school psychologist and a 'floating' teacher (one not assigned to a specific classroom) perform regular classroom observations, providing additional technical assistance and training for teachers who still make high numbers of disciplinary referrals and have the greatest difficulty with classroom management. Following each observation, these peer mentors give the teachers suggestions, model how they should deal with behaviors, and continue to provide coaching and support.

From the student perspective, incentives are a central part of the school-wide PBIS atmosphere. Students can be awarded 12 points per day for positive conduct in school, and if they receive 70 percent of those points, they receive a reward at the end of that day. In addition, a student-of-themonth assembly honors two students from each camp, selected by their teachers, before the entire school. The school also contracts with It's Time for Kids—a non-profit organization whose mission is to reward at-risk kids for positive behavior with recreational, cultural, and educational programs—to provide entertainment twice a month for students at the top of Probation's 'merit ladder,' into which academic and behavioral points from the PBIS program are factored. Students who win periodic essay contests also qualify to attend, as do those who perform well on reading and math assessments.

The shift from a primarily punitive discipline arrangement, common at juvenile facilities, to a positive culture in which young people have the power to earn their own rewards has been remarkable. Prior to PBIS implementation, teachers constantly called for 'restructures,' which meant they needed security to remove a student from the classroom—the only disciplinary tool they had—and students routinely spent hours sitting outside, doing no schoolwork, after having been ejected. Now the discipline response/intervention flow chart makes it clear which behaviors should be dealt with at the classroom level. If difficulties continue, graduated options are employed, such as student planning team meetings or, for those with Individualized Educations, behavior support plan meetings. When necessary, Probation and Mental Health collaborate to create a second tier of support with a specialized supervision plan, where the student checks in with school administration each day to develop behavior goals, and checks out at the end of the day to evaluate whether those goals were achieved and what extra steps the student needs to take. Suspensions and restructures are now a last resort.

Students are being taught what is expected of them, they earn rewards when they meet those expectations, and clear, consistent structures are in place that all staff and youth understand and regularly work on together. Outside of school, many of the configurations and procedures in the rest of the camp environment have been influenced by the PBIS initiative, with probation staff issuing "caught doing good" tickets that contribute, as does school input, to a youth's overall merit-ladder standing.

School administration hopes to deploy a new database that will allow staff to separate office referrals from restructures (now coded the same), and a team of experts studying school-wide PBIS in juvenile facilities works with the McAuliffe team every month to help troubleshoot implementation. Students are actively involved in the program, suggesting incentives and contests they would like to see, and staff plans to reach out more assiduously to involve parents and families and cultivate community buy-in about the program.


Gateway to Success (Alhambra Unified) 57

In 2008, the Alhambra Unified School District, in collaboration with Alliant International University, received a Department of Health and Human Services' Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) grant. This grant allowed for the creation of a collaborative and cohesive infrastructure for providing alcohol and drug, safety, mental health, and early education services to students in the district. Through collaborations with the Alhambra Police Department and other community agencies and partners, Alhambra Unified established a sustainable infrastructure that maximizes resources and utilizes current staff to provide services to all students in the district. The vision of the Gateway to Success initiative is to provide comprehensive prevention and intervention services for the district as a whole, and to overcome many of the obstacles oftenfaced by families who wish to access counseling support by bringing such programs to the school sites.

The appendices to this module include policies, procedures, and forms developed for the Gateway to Success program (Table 6).

Click here
to view Table 6


57 Alhambra Unified School District

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