LACONIA — Since its introduction throughout the Laconia School District in 2014, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, program appears to be achieving its intended result by reducing the number of incidents requiring referrals for disciplinary action according to data presented to the School Board this week.
PBIS rests on the notion that appropriate behavior can be taught just like core subjects of the academic curriculum by setting positive expectations for students rather than telling them what not to do. Presented on matrices prominently displayed in all five schools, the expectations signal the appropriate behavior in the classroom, hallways, cafeteria, restroom and school bus as well as on school grounds and at school events. Expectations are tailored to specific locations and activities within the schools, but at the same time are consistent. For example, if cell phones are restricted in one classoom, they are restricted in all classrooms.
Maureen Tracey, the district coordinator of the program, explained that the program aims to maximize the time students spend learning by reducing the number referrals to the office for inappropriate behavior, which take both the student and the teacher out of the classroom. She said that PBIS includes a software program that gathers and arranges behavioral data, which identifies the student and transgression, along with the date, time and place of the incident leading to a referral.
McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, the Safe Schools and Healthy Students Administrator, told the board that while all students benefit by meeting consistent expectations, some require extra support and others more intensive. individual direction.
Tracey and Harrington-Bacote presented two measures of progress, the number of "office discipline referrals" and the number students referred more than once. At Em Street School from September to December the average referrals per day per month decreased from between four and eight to between two and four this year compared to last. During the same period average referrals per day per month at Pleasant Street School decreased from eight to less than four every month. At the same time, the number of students who were referred more than once declined at both schools. At Woodland Heights School, where average referrals per day per month topped eight in 2014, the decline was less dramatic and more uneven, but there as well the number of students referred more than once shrank.
At Laconia Middle School, referrals averaged between 12 and 16 per day per month in 2014, but this year have decreased to eight or less while the number of students referred has also declined.
At Laconia High School, the number of referrals during the first semester dropped from 1,606 in 2014 to 548 in 2015. During the first semester for the past three years there has been a marked decline in "problem behaviors." Incidents involving cell phones has decreased from 132 to 95 to 31. Use of abusive language has fallen from 78 incidents to 47, While there were 178 cases of disruption in 2013 and 2014, there were only 57 in 2015. Truancy has fallen from 238 cases in 2013 and 204 in 2014 to 49 in 2015. And the number of incidents of insubordination, which rose from 227 in 2013 to 332 in 2014, dropped to 146 in 2015.
Harrington-Bacote said that surveys of parents of students at Elm Street School found that majorities of between two-thirds and three-quarters believe that PBIS has improved both the academic performance and routine behavior of their children.
PBIS is funded by two federal grants, one of $2.2 million that will expire in September 2017 and another of $1.01 million that will expire in September 2019. Harrington-Bacote stressed that building the capacity to sustain the program beyond its initial funding is among her highest priorities. She noted $1.6 billion in federal funding to address the mental and behavioral needs of students will become available in August 2016, with school districts serving the greatest numbers of students living in poverty eligible for the largest share of the money.
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