Since 1969 the Center for Child Development and Education has been running a unique experiment in the Kramer School of Little Rock, Arkansas. A large grant from the federal Office of Child Development enabled the project's director, Bettye Caldwell, to devote five years to improving and humanizing all aspects of this inner-city school. The goal was to produce a working model of an ideal educational institution for children -- not just a school but a comprehensive child development center offering day care, early childhood and elementary education, and a range of other family support services.1
This report centers on just one aspect of this project: how problems of school discipline were dealt with. What follows is a report of a year-long case study of the implementation of a token economy in an entire elementary school. The effort was intended to provide teachers with an alternative to corporal punishment. I shall describe both the successful and unsuccessful procedures in chronological fashion and trace the evolution of the school justice system that ensued.
In 1972 the Kramer School population consisted of approximately 175 elementary children (grades 1 through 5) in seven classrooms, with a 60:40 black/white ratio. No busing was employed, since the school was located in an integrated area.
This essay, reprinted from the January 1978Phi Delta Kappan, is condensed from a paper presented at the annual convention of the American Educational Research Association in April 1977.