Good Behavior to Pay off in Glynn Schools; Pilot Project Will Recognize Students Who Set Good Example

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

BRUNSWICK - Students at seven Glynn County schools will be rewarded for their good behavior when classes resume Aug. 11.

The pilot project is intended to reduce disciplinary problems by providing incentives for acting respectfully and responsibly.

A state initiative, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, known as PBIS, won't replace discipline for student misconduct. Students who fight, disrupt class or otherwise violate school rules still face punishment up to suspension or expulsion, said Juliann Rogers, district executive director of early academics and intervention programs.

Students who stay out of trouble, work hard in school and are respectful, however, will be recognized and held out as good examples, she said.

The project is based on education data nationwide that show teaching students how to act properly, and rewarding them when they do, is an incentive for other students. The positive reinforcement of praise, prizes or privileges can encourage students who behave badly to change their ways.

In use at about 10,000 schools nationwide, PBIS is designed to save instructional hours now lost to disciplining students, to create a better learning atmosphere for and make schools safer, state education officials said.

Reducing disruptions and other disciplinary problems leaves teachers more time to teach, Rogers said.

Just as they teach students how to read, write or do math, schoolteachers and staff will extend their instructions to teaching students how to act at school and on the school bus, she said.

The new program isn't costing the district anything. The state has provided the necessary training for administrators and teachers.

The county's Glynn Middle School, Needwood Middle School, Altama Elementary School, Goodyear Elementary School, Burroughs-Molette Elementary School and Satilla Marsh Elementary School are putting the program into place this year.

The district's remaining schools will follow in the next two years, Rogers said.

Wayne County and Savannah-Chatham are among Southeast Georgia school systems that use the program, she said.

The Ware County school system is beginning its fourth year using a similar positive behavior program called High 5's and B's, said Theresa Martin, who oversees the program.

It emphasizes attitude, attendance, awareness, achievement and accountability by teaching students good behavior skills at the beginning of the school year and reinforcing them with rewards such as recognition and small prizes throughout the year, Martin said.

"Our Tier 1 general disciplinary referrals have decreased each year at all grade levels since we've had the program," Martin said. "This year we will be focusing on Tier 3 repeat offenders."

In Georgia schools, typically the higher the tier number, the most severe the offense and subsequent punishment.

Martin said the majority of disciplinary referrals come from "a very small group of students. …