Evaluation of a Comprehensive Behavior Management Program to Improve School-Wide Positive Behavior Support

By Metzler, Carol W.; Biglan, Anthony et al. | Education & Treatment of Children, November 2001 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of a Comprehensive Behavior Management Program to Improve School-Wide Positive Behavior Support


Metzler, Carol W., Biglan, Anthony, Rusby, Julie C., Sprague, Jeffrey R., Education & Treatment of Children


Abstract

This paper describes the evaluation of a consultative approach to assisting middle schools in implementing empirically based school-wide behavior management practices. The Effective Behavior Support program involved working with school staff to clarify rules, teach appropriate social behavior, increase positive reinforcement for positive behavior, consistently provide mild consequences for rule violation, and monitor data on student behavior. The intervention was evaluated through records of rewards given, discipline referrals, and frequent surveys of students. Where possible, data from the target school were evaluated against data from comparison schools. Results showed effects at the target school on increased positive reinforcement for appropriate social behavior and on decreased aggressive social behavior among students. Discipline referrals were significantly decreased for 7th graders and for harassment among males. Students' perceptions of school safety improved at the target school but not at compariso n schools. Students' reports of being physically or verbally attacked the previous day were reduced at the target school as well, but these changes were also seen at the comparison school.

The development of effective methods for promoting appropriate social behavior and preventing aggressive behavior in school settings is an important national priority. Recent shootings in schools, coupled with evidence that violent and lethal behavior has increased among adolescents (Elliott, 1994), have aroused considerable concern that schools be assisted in handling aggressive behavior (Mayer, 1995; Sprague, Sugai, & Walker, 1998). To this end, the present paper describes the evaluation of a program to improve behavior management practices in a middle school.

Antisocial behavior, youth violence, and safety are leading concerns in American schools. Despite the fact that overall violent crime has remained relatively stable over the past 15 to 20 years (Furlong, 1994; Roth, 1994), violent juvenile crime continues to increase dramatically. For example, violent crimes among juveniles increased by 41 percent from 1982 to 1991. During this same period, the number of arrests for murder and aggravated assault committed by juveniles increased by 93% and 72% respectively (Wilson & Howell, 1993). These trends may well continue unless they can be offset through a coordinated plan of prevention, early intervention, and graduated sanctions (Walker, Irvin, & Sprague, 1997).

Lately we have seen a spillover of violence and aggression into school settings that were once relatively safe. Recent reviews of aggression in schools indicate that threats and bullying, robbery, assaults on students and teachers, gang recruitment, and injury or death by weapons are escalating concerns at many schools (Committee for Children, 1996; Crowe, 1991; National School Safety Center, 1996; Howell, 1995; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Reports of the 1999 fatal shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, have underscored the potential pathogenic effects on both victim and perpetrator when school social environments are characterized by frequent verbal and physical harassment and other aggressive social interactions among students (e.g. Adams & Russakoff, 1999). There is considerable evidence that many students are the victims of such harassment in middle schools and high schools (Olweus, 1993).

The issue is not limited to school safety. A wealth of research on the development of problem behaviors in youth has shown that serious behavior problems at school are associated with current or future problems in other areas, including school failure, delinquent behavior, problem drinking and drug use, and precocious or risky sexual behavior (Ary et al., in press; Ary, Duncan, Duncan, & Hops, 1999; Donovan & lessor, 1985; Donovan, Jessor, & Costa, 1988; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). …

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