Within one year after the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program was introduced at West Wilkes Middle School in the 2010-11 school year, disciplinary referrals dropped by almost 50 percent and standardized reading, math and science test scores improved.
Westley Wood, Wilkes school director of student services said the goal now is to have PBIS at all Wilkes schools.
Wood said full implementation of PBIS is under way at Moravian Falls and C.B. Eller elementary schools, while other schools are using certain aspects of the program.
PBIS is based on the premise that students learn appropriate behavior through instruction, practice, feedback and encouragement. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s goal is to have PBIS in all of the state’s public schools. It’s been implemented at over 40 percent of North Carolina schools.
A key element of PBIS is the code of conduct, usually developed by a committee of teachers and other staff at each participating school.
The first letters in each of the five basic elements of West Wilkes Middle School’s “Knight Code of Conduct,” referencing the school mascot, spell “CODE.” The five are “come prepared,” “operate responsibly,” “demonstrate respect” and “excel in learning.”
The Knight Code of Conduct lists more specific expectations encompassing these basic elements for hallways, classrooms, restrooms, cafeteria, events, buses and during arrivals and dismissals.
For example, it lists “speak politely in tone and volume” as a way to demonstrate respect in the classroom.
It lists “wash hands with soap and water” as a way to operate responsibly in the restroom.
West Wilkes Middle School Principal Dion Stocks said students are taught these expectations and are awarded with tickets when seen meeting them.
Students can “cash in” their tickets for certain privileges or other rewards, such as wearing a hat on “hat day,” eating at an outside picnic area or attending an event like a ballgame between students and staff.
West Middle students are assigned points when they don’t follow the code. Accumulation of enough points may result in a student participating in small group counseling sessions with a guidance counselor, said Stocks.
“We work on two specific goals (for improvement) with each student,” he said, based on the idea that two is enough for a student at one time. A student could be assigned in-school suspension if improvement isn’t seen in three weeks, he said.
Wood said rewarding positive behavior, like giving tickets at West Middle, works for about 80 percent of students and is the first of three tiers of intervention under PBIS.
He said the second tier, typically needed for about 15 percent of students, involves more intensive intervention such as a personal plan for improvement.
Wood said the third tier may involve providing professional behavioral assistance, with approval from parents, for a child.