Clear Expectations Bring Improved Student Achievement and Reduced Suspensions
by Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Peppered throughout Godwin Heights High School’s hallways, classrooms and cafeteria are posters declaring eight expectations of its students.
Students are embracing the school-wide standards, and as a result, are making marked improvement in their behavior and readiness to learn.
The expectations are part of a program the high school launched at the start of the 2012-13 school year called Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS). Through a handful of incentive programs, which includes an in-school store called the Wolverine Den, students receive a reward for exhibiting positive behavior. This has led to a safer, more positive school environment, said Marcia DeVos, a special education teacher whose department oversees the operation of the store. Suspensions are down and a more “teachable” school environment has been created, enabling teachers to devote more time to class instruction.
The PBIS expectations encourage the high schools’ 640 students to be at school on time every day; wear a Godwin ID; use appropriate language; respect peers, self and staff; keep the school clean and safe; follow the dress code; and be honest.
Focus on positive behavior
“Instead of focusing on negative behaviors from our students, PBIS focuses on meeting our expectations,” said DeVos. “The primary focus is on behavior which leads to better academics. Teachers have said the kids are quieter. We know the kids that were here last year are telling the freshman ‘this is how we do things here.’”
Assistant Principal Aaron Berlin said the 2011-12 school year was devoted to deciding which expectations to put into action. It was worth it, he added. He points to a decline in out-of-school suspensions: 4.4 percent out-of-school suspensions (2011-2012); 3.57 percent (2012-2013), and it was reduced to 2.75 percent (2013-2014).
‘Godwin Bucks’ making a difference
Teachers who notice students demonstrating one or more of the eight expectations are given a “Godwin Buck.” The “money” is actually photocopied, laminated paper with a comical banana printed on the top that says it’s worth $1.
Students can then take their reward dollars during lunchtime on Wednesdays and Fridays to the Wolverine Den to purchase merchandise that some 30 high school teachers buy and donate to stock it, such as snacks, water bottles, and gloves.
Some items cost more than $1 and if the student wants it, they learn to save their “Godwin Bucks” until they’ve earned enough to purchase the desired item.
“It motivates them to do it again,” said DeVos. “That’s why some items cost one Godwin Buck and others cost more.”
DeVos said in the works is a school store that will offer Godwin hoodies for sale to parents, alumni, students and the school community. The proceeds from the regalia will help fund the merchandise for the Wolverine Den.
Also inside the Wolverine Den are gift certificates tapped to a wall that cost $10 Godwin Bucks that are good for special treats such as lunch with a teacher, or homemade cookies.
Special education teacher Marcia DeVos says the PBIS program is making a noticeable difference
Sweet treat carts make the rounds
As another incentive, two sweet treat carts make quarterly rounds to classrooms. Loaded with cookies, cupcakes, pies and cakes, a teacher arrives at a classroom with the names of students who met the requirements of that quarter’s theme. The first quarter of this year, students were challenged to maintain perfect attendance. Students who did not have any suspensions or detentions were treated the second nine weeks.
“This rewards the kids who meet the expectations,” said DeVos. “It also motivates the other kids — they see the rewards and hopefully consider earning the same incentives next time.”
Positive Behavior Intervention Supports
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