Washington School’s Positive Behavior Is Increasing With Help From Students, Staff

Just some of the over 200 Washington Middle School students who are eligible for a “Gold Card” for good behavior.

Almost half of Washington Middle Schools’ students lined the front entryway recently showing off their “Gold Cards,” which designate that they are part of an elite group whose positive behavior has earned them special privileges at the school. This group is just one result of the school’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) and how it is effectively improving working the learning environment at Washington Middle School. From last February 2016 to February 2017, write-ups for behavior concerns are down by over 50 percent. Out of 476 students enrolled in Washington Middle School, 340 students had none, or only one, discipline referral this school year.

“We are thrilled with the results from all the hard work the students and staff have put in to support our PBIS program. We are really starting to see the benefits,” said PBIS Committee members, Priscilla Menzies and Jill Smeraldo. “Our staff in particular has been so supportive. We are understanding that the most effective way to change a child’s behavior is creating positive relationships and our staff is really managing behaviors in the classrooms and doing a great job establishing these relationships with students. As student behavior improves, it makes for a better learning environment for everyone. This is working because our staff sees the positive difference in the building.”

PBIS is a research-based framework that JPS has implemented in every school to encourage positive behavior, decrease negative behaviors, and uses a preventative approach when intervening with negative behaviors. PBIS is a multi-tiered system of support for students and staff including a “Tier I” PBIS, which involves every student in the school and a “Tier II” to help a more select group of students needing more support. The PBIS Committee reviews all behavior data at the school at their regular meetings. The Tier I group reviews data by looking at write-ups based on location and type of behavior, for example, is the behavior occurring in the hallway. While the Tier II group looks at individual student behavior data.

One of the Tier I programs at Washington Middle School is setting building-wide expectations in all areas such as classrooms, hallways, cafeteria and gymnasiums and rewarding those students who meet the expectations through a ticket system. There is often an assumption that tickets will be given to a student every time they do something right the research-based method reinforces student behavior using intermittent reinforcement. Students will sometimes be given a ticket, and sometimes not, for the same behavior.

Students can use the tickets to “buy” items or special experiences in the school store. The school is lucky to have help from the local community, like Wegman’s who provide gift cards, to give students great options. If a student has good behavior, no unexcused absences or tardies and no or only one discipline referral in a trimester, they are given the “Gold Pass.” This pass gets students into special events or activities such as kickball game outside or ice cream treats. Each trimester, students have an opportunity to try for a Gold Pass again.

PBIS is not a scripted, plug-and-play program. Every school gets to decide on their program through their PBIS Committee. A special thanks to Washington’s committee who has really set the bar for positive behavior at the school: Tier 1: Deb Rein, Cathy Pitts, Danielle Smith, Candice Callen, Jason Williams, Jack Iacuzzo, Marty Messina. Jill Smeraldo and Priscilla Menzies. Tier II: Priscilla Menzies, Shane Knapp, Sara Joly, Andrew Pihlblad, Laura Penhollow, Kim Rizzo, Matthew Schrader, Theresa Olson, and Sam Restivo.