As school safety remains at the top of administrators’ list of concerns, principals continue to look for ways to reduce school threats to keep students safe while improving their learning. The threat of violence can detrimentally impact the school environment, causing parents to look for alternatives for their children and impacting how schools spend budget funds.
Even without any specific threat or incidents, schools that feel unsafe can affect student performance and attendance. Attendance may fall as students avoid a tense environment, or they may struggle to concentrate on classwork as they worry about their safety and those around them. Typical school motivators, like the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with good grades, may not be enough in these circumstances.
A safe and supportive environment is important to reduce school threats and improve student performance. Identifying and addressing concerns that prevent students from feeling safe shows children, parents, and your community that your school cares about its students beyond simply preventing an immediate threat.
Several elements can point to problems within the school that need to be addressed. Specifically, performance can be a pivotal indicator of a problem. Acknowledging the problem isn’t enough. Administrators need to get to the bottom of performance issues to enact real change, and that means addressing the root of where underachievement may come from.
Tracking and Addressing Underachievement
Modern school administrators acknowledge that the relationship between student achievement and the educational environment is far more nuanced than what their predecessors believed. Traditionally, schools viewed their role in the lives of students as minimal, with the impact limited to learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. Underachievement was seen as a consequence of laziness on the part of the student, nothing more.
Today’s principals and staff understand that schools have a greater responsibility in supporting the individual student, both to encourage good performance and to create a learning environment that is conducive to a child’s mental health and well-being.
Enlightened teachers know that different students have different motivators that evolve over a child’s academic career. A student’s physical and emotional needs are just as important as their scholastic ones. When those needs aren’t met, children have a much harder time concentrating or engaging in the learning environment.
Caring for, and educating, the whole child can improve a student’s scholastic experiences. Without that support, a student’s performance may slip, and the farther they move away from good performance and meeting the level of their peers, the worse their educational experience becomes. This can become a downward spiral that feeds upon itself the longer it goes on.
Worse yet, the impact of underachievement in school can extend well beyond primary education and into adulthood. Students who perform poorly in school can end up not reaching their full potential after graduation, and may even experience issues with drugs, alcohol, and crime.
Achievement in school can counteract antisocial behavior in adulthood associated with adolescent mistreatment. In other words, the importance of supporting a student and helping them meet their educational potential cannot be underestimated.
Acting early is important to short-circuit a student’s path to underachievement and a likely downward spiral. But identifying the trends and red flags that can point to problems requires a multifaceted approach.
Without a system that allows a school to see data across multiple touchpoints, students in need of assistance may slip through the cracks until it’s too late.
Addressing the Root Causes of Underachievement
The root causes of underachievement are varied, but they often correlate with chronic absenteeism and classroom behavioral issues. Identifying and mitigating these issues requires caring for and educating the whole child, which is difficult without the right data. It’s hard to find and use appropriate school motivators when the underlying issues causing these challenges are not recognized and addressed.
Understanding Chronic Absenteeism
Missing a few days of school is not uncommon and, during the worst of cold and flu season, expected. Missing a significant amount of school days, however, can have a detrimental effect on student performance.
Missing a significant amount of class time is referred to as chronic absenteeism. Students who experience this level of absences miss valuable instruction time. As a result, it reduces their ability to keep up with their class or perform well. Once behind, it can be difficult for a child to catch up to their peers in academics, especially if the chronic absences occur early on.
This may seem like an easy issue to spot, but only if students are missing many days in a row. Because chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school days, a student could be missing classes sporadically and still be dealing with the effects of being chronically absent.
If students are missing class erratically, busy teachers may not immediately notice that a student is beginning a pattern of regularly missing school until it has become a problem. Once a child has crossed the threshold of chronically missing class, it will involve a lot of work from the teacher and specialized school motivators to get that student back on track.
By closely tracking attendance and viewing data holistically, administrators can identify trends early on and begin to look for the causes of a child missing a significant amount of school.
Setting Positive Interventions for Behavioral Issues
Behavioral issues in the classroom can be another signal that a student will struggle with underachievement in the future. Acting out, aggressiveness toward other students or teachers, and blatantly defying classroom rules were traditionally acts that were punished.
Today, we understand that these problems are not just mere defiance, but may stem from any number of different issues. These issues may be caused by external influences or school-based problems like bullying, unclear behavioral expectations, or unrecognized challenges in academics.
Acting out and aggressiveness in the classroom goes beyond impacting the educational experience of the individual student. Disruptions can derail an entire classroom, while frequent aggressive behavior against teachers or students can make a school feel unsafe.
Regardless of the cause, intervention is crucial to improving the school experience for both the individual student and the entire class. With some research suggesting that behavioral problems are a catalyst to underachievement, it’s important to help students address behavioral problems as part of the process of improving academic performance.
Effective intervention requires a comprehensive view of the problem that may span multiple classes or years, consistent and accurate recording of problems, and what steps were taken to remedy the situation. What may seem like a single incident in one classroom could actually be part of a larger series of episodes.
This is where data management can play a critical role in getting students the help they need. When teachers have a single place to record incidents and corrections that is visible to administrative staff, trends can easily be noted. Higher level interventions and counseling can be initiated early, helping both staff and administrators in ensuring students are treated fairly and receive help at the moment they need it. These actions spiral out, improving a student’s potential to achieve, restoring equilibrium to the classroom and, thus, offering a safe and secure environment that encourages learning.
School safety is a complex issue with multiple potential causes. By addressing the needs of the child, staff and administrators can reduce school threats by addressing the signs of potential trouble.
Data management provides a set of tools for schools to track and intervene with some of the precursors to poor school performance like absenteeism and behavioral issues early enough to avert what could become a serious problem for the student and the school. The result of addressing these underlying issues is an overall safer learning environment that doesn’t deter attendance or detract from academics.
ScholarChip is an all-in-one platform solution that helps schools proactively address student behavioral challenges, student safety, and chronic absenteeism, so they can prevent school violence before it happens.
To learn more about the many solutions ScholarChip provides, or to get free recommendations, feel free to request a 1-on-1 call with one of our specialists.