By Erica Macheca
Over the past few months, our office has been bustling with activity as we develop a suite of interactive e-learning tools—and now that they are live, we can’t stop talking (and blogging) about them! To this point, I’d like to share our approach to Positive School Discipline and introduce our new Positive School Discipline website and course.
The Need for Positive School Discipline
You need not look much further than recent headlines to realize that discipline challenges—and how schools and communities are responding to them—are a persistent problem in our schools today.
Take the Dallas honor roll student who, for a number of reasons, including a death in the family, missed too many days of school according to the local truancy court. When she was unable to pay the fines that had accrued, she was arrested. This student, who used to love school, now says it’s “more of a prison to me.”
In Washington, D.C., a June report revealed that 13% of D.C. students were suspended at least once during the 2011–12 school year; a number of D.C. middle schools suspended more than 50% of the student body during this same time period. These suspensions disproportionately affected students with special needs and those from wards with higher rates of poverty. Reports such as these are important barometers, and many school districts are using them to take a hard look at their discipline practices.
"The issues that children and youth face today are too complex for schools to effectively address on their own. They need to partner with stakeholders in the community who share the same interest in children’s success..."
—Carol Bershad, lead developer of our Positive School Discipline course
The overuse of suspension and expulsion—often for minor offenses—is a troublesome problem across our nation. (To learn more, visit our blog on this topic.) Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the consequences of removing students (many of whom are already struggling) from the learning environment are often cumulative and serious. Removal from school fuels the probability of school failure for these students and furthers their disengagement, leading many on a path to dropout and into the juvenile and adult justice systems.
While punitive “get tough” discipline polices are commonplace in schools, they often exacerbate the problem by alienating students and contributing to more misbehavior. Yet there is usually more to these behavior problems than meets the eye—underlying issues, such as learning disabilities, attendance problems, mental or behavioral health challenges, or family stressors, are often the real cause of student misbehavior. Schools, which may lack the resources or student data to address these root causes, typically struggle to find solutions.
For more than a decade, PromotePrevent has helped communities plan, implement, and sustain initiatives to address the underlying issues that contribute to school failure, dropout, suspension, and expulsion. (Visit About Us to learn more about the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative.)
So what have we and these communities learned about what works?
As Carol Bershad, lead developer of our Positive School Discipline course, explains:
The issues that children and youth face today are too complex for schools to effectively address on their own. They need to partner with stakeholders in the community who share the same interest in children’s success. And once they begin working together, a comprehensive approach is needed—one that employs multipronged strategies that are integrated into all grade levels and at all levels of need—universal, selected, and indicated.
And this is the ultimate goal of our new website and course—to help communities work together, using a holistic and comprehensive Positive School Discipline approach, to provide children and families with supports that address the challenges that may interfere with students’ success.
The Benefits of Positive School Discipline
Schools that take this approach promote positive student behavior while preventing negative and risky behaviors. Students are more engaged in school, and parents feel welcomed and included. These schools tend to experience such benefits as improved academic achievement, improved attendance, reduced suspension and expulsions, and increased graduation rates.
Would you like to learn more? If so, our Positive School Discipline website is a great resource for you.
Our Positive School Discipline Course for School Leaders
On our website, you will also find our new online course. The self-paced Positive School Discipline course (available at no cost) can help you work in partnership with school leaders and others to create an environment where students learn and thrive. You can take this course as an individual, but we encourage you to take it as part of a team from your school or district to maximize the course’s impact.
The course will introduce you to the Framework for Comprehensive Positive School Discipline. Throughout the course, you’ll learn how to apply the framework to the Castle Hill, a representative (fictional) community.
First you’ll visit the Castle Hill newsstand and read the local paper’s article exposing the high rates of suspension for students of color in the Castle Hill Independent School District. You’ll learn what members of the community are thinking and saying about this news, and you’ll have the chance to meet three struggling Castle Hill students and learn about their lives.
In each stage of the Framework’s Partner-Plan-Act Process, you will complete interactive and engaging skill-building activities—and you’ll receive instant feedback on your responses! By the end of the course, you’ll create a Positive School Discipline plan for Castle Hill, and you’ll understand how by partnering with others, using a data-informed, systemic approach, you can create a positive and supportive learning environment in your own community.
Throughout the course (and our website), you’ll find “real story” videos and vignettes shared from communities that have been successful in putting these principles into practice. Our hope is that these tools, resources, and stories will better equip you and your community to apply a Positive School Discipline approach and that you will experience similar successes: fewer disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and expulsions, and more students who are engaged and thriving in the classroom.
What are the greatest school discipline problems you face in your school? We’d love to hear what you think about our new Positive School Discipline website and course for school leaders. Please add your thoughts and comments below.
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