Opinion: Positive student behavior makes for fewer distractions

Published 9:21 am Friday, March 8, 2013

By Kevin Anderson, Ellis Middle School psychologist

Student misbehavior takes teachers away from teaching and distracts students from learning. Austin Public Schools is doing something about this by improving student behavior through Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and there are opportunities for parents and community members to get involved as well.

PBIS, a U.S. Department of Education-sponsored initiative that’s been around for more than a decade, is an approach to create and maintain a positive school climate by teaching and re-teaching students school-wide and classroom behavioral expectations. Several schools in the district have received grants from the Minnesota Department of Education for training and coaching in PBIS. Teams from Ellis Middle School and the Woodson Kindergarten Center are completing their second year of training, and Austin High School is completing its first year of training. A team from the new I.J. Holton Intermediate School joined the Ellis and Woodson teams this year and will be implementing PBIS for the fifth- and sixth-grade students beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. Several years ago a team from Sumner Elementary School received a similar grant and many of the PBIS strategies are still being implemented.

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Students show their Packer Pride at Ellis Middle School and Austin High School when they are respectful, responsible and safe; these are the school-wide behavioral expectations. At Woodson Kindergarten Center, students learn Caring Critters take care of themselves, take care of others and take care of property. PBIS emphasizes preventing school discipline problems before they occur by specifically teaching behavioral expectations rather than assuming students know how to behave.

PBIS also recognizes and rewards positive, appropriate behavior in schools in addition to logically and consistently responding to classroom and individual student problems. Occasional recognition and rewards for children and teens that are making good choices not only encourages continued positive behavior, but provides some students with the necessary motivation to do the right thing when they see their peers benefiting. No longer is the squeaky wheel getting all the grease.

How can parents and the community support PBIS? Parents and community members can reinforce students and anyone displaying behavior you would like to see more frequently. PBIS teams have received generous support and donations from local businesses and PTCs that are used to rewarding students who display appropriate behavior. This support is much appreciated since PBIS is not funded with tax dollars.

For an in-depth look at PBIS, check out the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at: www.pbis.org. Questions can be directed to Kevin Anderson at Ellis Middle School, kevin.anderson@austin.k12.mn.us.