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Rubrics Help Improve School-Wide Behavior

Teachers have seen the value in using rubrics to assess student work and behavior. Now some principals are using them as a tool for monitoring and modifying behavior on a school-wide basis. Examples of behavior rubrics.

With many teachers now using rubrics successfully to assess students' schoolwork and behavior, some administrators are developing rubrics aimed at improving student behavior throughout their schools.

The rubrics provide teachers and students with clear criteria for acceptable behavior, and allow both to chart improvement.

"What I love about this rubric is that it helps you look at things and judge them incrementally," said Denise Serico, former principal of Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.


Both Serico, and Dennis Peacock, principal of Newberry Middle School in Newberry, Michigan, whose school also uses behavior rubrics, told Education World that no single incident led to the creation of the rubrics. Both schools wanted students to be more responsible and more aware of their behavior toward others.

Sample Rubrics

Click below to see respect and responsibility rubrics used by teachers and students at Kilmer Elementary School:

--- Students' Respect Rubric

--- Teachers' Respect Scoring Rubric

--- Students' Repsonsibility Rubric

--- Teachers' Responsibility Scoring Rubric

"We weren't looking for a behavior rubric; we were looking for a program to eliminate bullying," said Peacock, when the school began developing a program in the fall of 2003. "We had a team of teachers on a 'bully-free schools' committee. We molded the program to meet our needs."

Newberry's Consequence Rubric for Addressing Aggressive Behaviors lists infractions, such as teasing and intimidation, and the consequences for committing those infractions a first, second, and third time.

"This helps kids know the consequences," said Cossondra George, a teacher who served on the committee. "This way they know the seriousness of the situation."

As part of the review process, teachers ask students to answer questions such as: What did they do? Why was it wrong? What problem were they trying to solve? What will they do next time?

"The jury is still out [on the model's effectiveness]," Peacock said. "I think it's more effective with the middle-of-the-road kids. The hardened kids just say, 'So what?' It is not as effective."

For this year, the administration is looking to alter the rubric to focus more on preventing misbehavior. "I think we need to do more on the front end," Peacock continued. "Right now, it is more consequence-based. I think we need to do more modeling, discussing, and role-playing to show positive behavior. We're trying to get kids to take ownership, and come up with a different solution."

"We have to be more consistent as a staff," added George. "The kids did not look at some of those behaviors enough. But it does make a difference in the way they treat each other."


Kilmer Elementary School's model focuses more on assessing student behavior by students and their teachers at different points in the year.

The two rubrics have to do with respect and responsibility, with separate rubrics for students and teachers. "We use rubrics in many other areas of academics," noted Serico, the school's former principal. "The guidance counselor saw this as a way of approaching behavior issues. We felt this would benefit students and teachers.

"I thought it was great to have a student and adult perspective," she continued. "They do have a subjective edge, but I think it is a good evaluation tool."

The rubrics were developed by school counselor Lois Silver and a group of teachers. "We'd been talking about rubrics to measure academic progress, and thought they would be appropriate as well for assessing behavior," Serico said. "I always cared deeply about character education. I thought this was an opportune time to reflect on behavior. We also engaged in peer mediation and character education."

The rubrics were distributed to the fifth graders and their teachers at the K-5 school. In the 2003-2004 school year, they completed them after the first and third marking periods, so students could set goals and assess their progress, according to Serico.

"We compared kids' and teachers' evaluations; the majority of students were close to their estimations," she said. "Some kids were harder on themselves than the teachers were. They tended to be the more solid students. We did see growth."


A sample behavior rubric.