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October 17, 2016

Schools rewarding good behavior to show students the way

Only a month into the school year and Assistant Principal Tammy Hutchison at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School says the transformation she’s seen from students is amazing.

Detentions are down by half compared to September last year. Even fewer students are tardy to class. She and other staff members frequently see students being thoughtful and prepared in class but also in the hallways and during lunch.

The difference, Hutchison says, is the stack of purple-colored cards emblazoned with the school’s logo—PRIDE cards—on her desk. She always has some with her, ready to hand out when she sees a student helping others or following the rules.

“It’s about whether you have been acknowledged for what you’ve done right,” Hutchison says.

And students are eager to earn the cards, turning them in at a new school store stocked with donated lanyards, backpacks and, for at least one day, pink breast cancer awareness bracelets.

“We are surprised how many kids want them,” says eighth-grader Haley Blanc, one of the student leaders offering the bracelets.

About half of the district's elementary schools–Canyon View, Eastgate, Sunset View, Edison, Lincoln, Cottonwood, Sage Crest and Hawthorne–have implemented or are in the planning stages to implement Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS), a new approach to addressing student behavior. 

Most of the district's middle schools–Chinook, Desert Hills, Highlands and Horse Heaven Hills–are already using PBIS while Park Middle School is planning to implement aspects of it during the 2017-18 school year.

While students still face consequences for inappropriate actions, staff say the new initiative focuses on correct behavior and shows it has rewards. It’s also a data-driven approach that tracks when and why students get into trouble, helping administrators find solutions.

“We know what time of day students tend to struggle or what spaces in the school have the most problems,” said Assistant Principal Kim Lembeck at Canyon View Elementary School.

The district began encouraging schools to implement PBIS in 2015. Assistant Superintendent Greg Fancher said the system is a more positive way to work with kids while teaching them standards of behavior they may not know or understand.

Hutchison says the items students receive when they trade in PRIDE cards aren’t just for fun. Horse Heaven Hills students may use them to get pencils, pens or notebooks if they need any for class. They can even be used to borrow a set of gym clothes if a student forgot to bring their own that day.

Canyon View is in its second year of using PBIS and Principal Mark Stephens says the change is remarkable. Fewer students are being referred to the school office for acting out and the number placed in out-of-school suspension is half what it was before PBIS was put in place.

“Students are far more aware of our expectations and that’s a big deal,” Stephens says. “A student that does something wrong doesn’t always understand why what they did was wrong.”

Canyon View’s rewards system includes Bassett Bucks. Similar to Horse Heaven Hills’ PRIDE cards, students earn Bassett Bucks for consistent good behavior and can use them to enter drawings for donated prizes.

PBIS’ emphasis on reinforcing good behavior also means staff became invested in modeling how students should act. At Canyon View, that led teachers to make a series of humorous videos shown to students during assemblies demonstrating the right and the wrong way to do everything from walking in the halls to playing on the playground.