Schools have always had a challenging but rewarding goal: educate children and prepare them for their lives as adults. Speak to any teacher, administrator, or school counselor today and they will tell you that is becoming an increasingly difficult task.
Across grade levels, socio-economics, and races, school counselors see an increase in problematic behaviors. Acting out, being disruptive, skipping class, and even violence and crime have been on the rise.
These behaviors have a detrimental impact on school safety and performance. Direct and indirect aggressive behavior, like bullying, affect students, tarnish the community’s view of the school, and diminishes the educational process.
Traditionally, schools have relied on negative interventions to manage behavior anomalies. Unfortunately, these punishments and policies, like zero tolerance, have been proven ineffective. Worse, it is now clear that they are disproportionately applied to students of color.
The better and more effective path to encouraging good behavior is through the use of student counseling, positive modeling, and reinforcement. Effective positive behavior support requires clarity of expectations and consistency in policy and treatment. Importantly, the earlier student counseling is implemented, the earlier expectations and pathways to good behavior are established and long-term results improve.
The Impact of Behavior Issues
Behavior issues have an impact that extends far beyond the individual student involved. When negative behaviors exist in the classroom, the entire education environment is impacted. There are multiple types of behavior issues that contribute to a feeling of insecurity within the school.
Problematic behaviors, such as acting out, aggressiveness, skipping class, and drug and alcohol use influence the perception of a school’s safety with students, parents, and the community. When children don’t feel secure in their environment, it is difficult for them to concentrate and understand the material. When the community is concerned about school safety, school counselors and administrators operate under a spotlight, with everything from graduation rates to funding in jeopardy.
Chronic absenteeism, classified as missing more than 10 percent of the school year, can indirectly influence the school, as well. Students who are chronically absent, even when those absences are excused, have a harder time academically keeping up with their classmates. This compounds over the years and can result in lower graduation rates.
Expectations and Interventions—A Tiered Approach
Clearly, encouraging good behavior in school is of benefit to the environment, to other students, and to the community. Good behavior isn’t just about having a peaceful learning environment. Students who behave well tend to perform better, scholastically. And scholastic performance has been linked to success as adults, regardless of socio-economics in childhood.
Students come from different situations and abilities, so a tiered approach to establishing and managing a positive learning environment is advisable. Tiered guidelines, like Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) and Response to Intervention (RTI) provide the framework for student counseling. These tiered systems take into account both broad and specific and individualized needs.
At the broadest level, both PBIS and RTI set expectations with students and parents on what is considered good behavior. With clearly defined actions and behaviors, and an understanding of intervention steps when proper behavior models aren’t followed, the majority of students have a template to work from, and parents know what to expect when a child strays from these behaviors.
Some students, however, need greater attention and intervention. These at-risk students receive greater support and more intensive behavior strategies are established. Good behavior is managed with rewards and contingencies.
A much smaller number of students may be in crisis and need more extensive support. PBIS and RTI establish a third tier for these students and their families. This may include support and assistance from outside of the school.
For the greatest impact and results, these tiers should be set up proactively and communicated to students, staff, and parents equally and consistently. With everyone on the same page as to expectations, student behavior is easier to track and student counseling can help edge-case students get the support they need.
The Role of Data in Supporting Good Behavior
The key to helping at-risk students is identifying those in need of a more intensive support program. Because problematic behaviors may happen over time or even over a student’s academic career, comprehensive tracking and reporting of red-flags and incidents are crucial to getting students the help they need. This data identifies at-risk students while also showing when a trend in behavior is happening that requires intervention.
Data is also an integral part of understanding the effectiveness of an individual program and plan. Looking at objective measures and subjective reporting together can signal if a plan is working for a student and if there are opportunities for improvement. This data can also show ways that counselors can be more effective with an individual, showing what motivators work and which are less so.
Beyond the individual, data shows the impact the encompassing tiered program has at the macro level. A tiered program should promote good behavior across the student population, not just with those individuals with the largest need. By measuring and evaluating data across the institution, counselors and administrators can collectively make data-driven decisions on adjustments.
Data cannot exist only for data’s sake, however. It must be both systematic and comprehensive to be helpful. It must also include information at both the individual level and at the macro level in areas like academic performance, overall school safety statistics, and other behavioral indicators.
Proper plans, student counseling, and interventions can turn the tide from increasingly problematic behaviors to positive ones. Counselors should take a consistent and proactive approach, like a tiered program that encompasses all students and includes the definition and encouragement of good behavior. Those definitions should be applied to the school population as a whole, while individuals receive interventions specific to them and their needs. Once in place, programs should be analyzed across objective and subjective measures to understand its effectiveness for the overall school and for each individual. This data can then be used to make adjustments and improvements to the plan.
ScholarChip offers a solution called Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). This innovative program enables counselors to identify, monitor, and improve student behavior throughout a student’s career, while giving administrators and teachers powerful data-driven reports that quickly flag at-risk students, help monitor and chronicle progress, and support decision-making tasks. The ScholarChip system incorporates the complete spectrum of behavior and integrates student rewards, interventions, and tracking with PowerSchool®, Infinite Campus, and other popular SIS platforms.
To find out how ScholarChip can help keep your school safer, learn more about the many solutions ScholarChip provides, or to get free recommendations, feel free to contact one of our specialists today!