The Waupaca School Board was recently informed of a program being developed and implemented at the Waupaca Learning Center intended to identify, adapt and sustain effective schoolwide disciplinary practices.
This program was established by the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, and is called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).
PBIS is a research-based program proven to enhance academic and social behavior outcomes for all students.
While PBIS was originally developed as a series of interventions for students with behavioral disabilities as part of the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Act, early results demonstrated potential success in the regular education student as well.
The Wisconsin Department of Instruction now promotes the use of PBIS within the Response to Intervention Model for all students – regular education and special education.
This may sound like technical jargon, but this has been given a great deal of attention by teachers and administrators over the past three to four years as we move the district toward the expectations of the federal government.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website, “The PBIS model has been successfully implemented in thousands of schools in over 40 states, resulting in dramatic reductions in disciplinary interventions and increases in academic achievement.”
This article will focus more on the Waupaca Learning Center program, because they were the focus of the board presentation, and they are further ahead than the other schools in the district.
However, it should be noted all grade levels within the district are at various stages in the process of exploring and implementing PBIS.
For any new program to be successful in schools, there needs to be one or more advocates who can educate others about the program’s value, acquire the necessary resources to make the program sustainable and be held accountable for results.
At the WLC, the two people most responsible for this effort are John Erspamer (principal) and Scott Van Ess (PBIS coordinator).
PBIS became a viable program for the WLC when Mr Erspamer made the decision to revise an existing but vacant support teacher position description to reflect responsibility for PBIS and then moved Mr Van Ess into that position.
They then developed a team of teachers and counselors representing each grade level to act as the PBIS leadership team.
This team has now become the implementation team and helps with the training and staff development necessary to get all parties working toward the same objectives.
In order to be eligible to participate in PBIS, the team must commit to meet monthly, analyze behavioral and academic data and develop school-wide goals for implementation based on the data.
In addition, the entire staff must vote with 80 percent or more approval to implement school-wide PBIS.
The WLC has met all the criteria.
One of the keys to success at the WLC will be the inclusion of all staff in implementing PBIS uniformly.
From bus drivers to food service personnel, expectations for student behavior will be the same.
Parents are also encouraged to become involved in order to promote consistency whether at school or at home.
Common terminology applied to proper behaviors throughout the day will reinforce appropriate behaviors whether students are in the classroom, in the hallway, on the playground, in the commons, on the bus or at home.
The other key to success is collecting and analyzing data.
Specific behaviors, such as bullying, fighting, use of inappropriate language and verbal assault, will be tallied to inform the team of the frequency and nature of misbehaviors.
Goals will be developed on a school-wide basis to reduce the most frequent misbehaviors.
You will now hear students repeating the same phrases used by adults to reinforce some basic behaviors expected at all times.
The current focus is on doing things “the Rascal way,” which says: I am respectful. I am responsible. I am safe. I am prepared.
Preliminary indications, based on data, suggest this program will be successful in reducing problem behaviors at school and at home.
Talk to your child’s teacher to find out more.
Dr. David Poeschl is Waupaca schools district administrator.