Statewide system for school discipline helps Kettering students

Students at Beavertown Elementary earned special seating at the Firebird Cafe for being Respectful, Responsible and Safe.
Students at Beavertown Elementary earned special seating at the Firebird Cafe for being Respectful, Responsible and Safe.

Five years ago, Ohio’s State Board of Education crafted rules and policy regarding Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports as part of a push against restraint and seclusion of students with behavior issues.

PBIS programs have since grown broader, and Kettering schools are among those using the program to improve the culture and climate in the schools.

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Dan Von Handorf, student services director for Kettering City Schools, said the program is mandated in the state and every school district has it. But leaders in Kettering, like some other local districts, decided to go the extra step with the program and work on curbing poor classroom behavior by students.

“We have been complying with the law for PBIS,” Von Handorf said. “We started looking more in depth at it after we surveyed our teaching staff and asked them to let us know what type of barriers they were experiencing in their classrooms, and one of the barriers they talked to us about was student behavior in the classrooms.”

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Von Handorf said two years ago the district developed leadership teams to study how PBIS could be effective in improving classroom behavior and improving the attitudes of students towards school.

“We looked at literature and did a lot of research on what programs could help in that area, and PBIS is research-based and shown to be highly effective in schools across the nation,” Von Handorf said.

EDUCATION: Schools focus on behavior to improve learning

A list of six key components was set up to implement PBIS: define behavior expectations (We are Safe, We are Responsible, We are Respectful, We are Firebirds), define behaviors you want to see, teach behavior expectations, acknowledge and celebrate desired behaviors, correct problem behaviors and collect and review data.

"The results have been a little bit different from building to building, but overall, the feedback from staff and students along with the data have shown the results to be really positive," Von Handorf said. "We had a matrix of behaviors set up to reinforce that we wanted students to be safe, responsible and respectful."

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Brian Snyder, principal at Kettering Middle School, said teachers and staff understand the importance of teaching and reinforcing positive student behaviors in order to help promote a climate where appropriate behaviors are the norm.

“We believe it is important to provide behavioral, and social supports to our students in order to help them realize their potential,” Snyder said. “Our staff believes the teaching, reinforcing, and supporting of behavioral and social expectations will lead to growth in not just those areas, but in academic performance as well.”

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Kettering Fairmont High School students will be working on tardiness. Von Handorf said more than 1,000 kids were tardy this past school year and this is not a college-ready trait.

“So they will be working on getting up on time, getting to school on time and then getting to class on time,” he explained.

The effort has spilled over to the city, as the Parks and Recreation Department wants to use the same verbiage when they are dealing with students, according to Von Handorf.

Some the students felt that the effort to improve behavior is more than a list or matrix of rules, but a showing of school and city pride.

“We are Firebirds,” was added to the PBIS approach by students, Von Handorf said, as a way to show that pride.

Valerie Dupler, principal at J.E. Prass Elementary School, said the district efforts with PBIS had helped build a consistent and positive environment for students to thrive in academically and socially.

“We are explicitly teaching expectations to our students, so they know exactly what is expected of them,” Dupler explained. “I think it (PBIS) will ultimately improve the academic growth for students, their academic achievement and their self-esteem because they are being acknowledged for meeting those expectations.”

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