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How One School Reduced Out-of-School Suspensions from 200 to 3

How One School Reduced Out-of-School Suspensions from 200 to 3

According to educator Wesley Owings in a post for ASCD, his school sought to make some big changes in disciplinary tactics after discovering it had one of the highest suspension rates in the district. Owings describes how his school, Lyon Academy at Blow Elementary, made big changes to "reduce the number of suspensions and find ways to deter the behaviors that were putting students out of school."

The first step, Owings said in the post, was for the school to create a positive focus school-wide. Instead of focusing on the punishment of bad behaviors ,the school decided to shift focus onto the rewarding of good behavior.

It started using Kickboard, an instructional management system to track all behaviors but to focus mostly on the positive ones.

"So, to promote positive behaviors and feedback, our school leadership team decided to implement a paycheck-based PBIS [Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports ] reward system in Kickboard by assigning a dollar value to each positive behavior. We aim to have a positivity ratio—the ratio of positive to negative behaviors that a teacher records—of at least 3:1 to help our teachers build stronger relationships with our students," he said in the post.

"The team also developed a consequence hierarchy—specific student actions would trigger specific educator responses, within the system. These automatic triggers make it easy for teachers to know when to call parents or when to send a student to the counselor or to our Reflection Room, which is our version of an in-school suspension. They also ensure that consequences are applied fairly and consistently schoolwide."

Another important step the school took in order to increase positive behaviors and reduce out-of-school discipline was to involve parents through weekly progress reports. Parents became excited, he said, to see their child's positive behaviors and were readily available to help if negative behaviors were consistent.

Owings says the actions the school has taken have significantly benefited the school's climate and resulted in a huge transformation of school culture.

"Four years ago, during my first year teaching here, we had more than 200 suspensions. Since then, we have dramatically reduced the number of both in-school and out-of-school suspensions. During the 2014–15 school year, we have had only 3 out-of-school suspensions, and we have drastically reduced the number of students being sent to our Reflection Room.:

"Positive reinforcement has been our game changer. Before, students were scared of getting in trouble for doing the wrong thing. Now, students and staff are focused on the right thing—recognizing, rewarding, and repeating those positive behaviors."

Read his full post here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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