Project ACHIEVE began its relationship with the New Opportunities and Values for Achievement (NOVA) Academy in April, 2002 when three of its support staff attended a four day national Project ACHIEVE Training of Trainers sponsored by the U. S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Project ACHIEVE training with the NOVA staff began on-site in July, 2002, and during the 2002-2003 school year, much of Project ACHIEVE’s first year blueprint was implemented.
NOVA Academy was the middle and high school alternative school for the St. Bernard Parish School District, a largely poor and rural school system to the east of New Orleans, directly on the Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi River. Students were sent to NOVA when they were (a) expelled from school, according to the Parish guidelines; (b) identified by an IEP Committee as being severely disruptive and needing a higher level of self-contained structure than available in their general education schools; and/or (c) mandated to attend based on a joint Court and school system decision. NOVA students were eligible to return to their “home” school when they (a) served the stated amount of time of their expulsion; (b) successfully attained Level 5 of NOVA’s behavioral merit program; and (c) attained the endorsement of the school’s Climate Team. Additionally, students with drug use offenses needed to successfully complete a substance abuse program and have consistently clean drug screens before returning to a regular school.
Project ACHIEVE was implemented at NOVA to improve the school’s school-wide discipline and positive behavioral support system and interventions. Especially important to this effort was the school-wide implementation of the Stop & Think Social Skills Program, the enhancement of the school’s accountability of incentives and consequences, and the reinforcement of staff consistency relative to student and other personal and professional interactions. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina devastated St. Bernard Parish and its school system in September of 2005. NOVA has been closed since the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
NOVA Alternative School's Project ACHIEVE Results in Brief
While every student was evaluated on a daily basis, relative to behavior and academic output, evaluations of Project ACHIEVE's impact largely focused on global levels of student discipline and the climate and behavior management of the school from the perspective of the school staff. Relative to the former, discipline data is reported below from the first year of Project ACHIEVE implementation (2002-2003), and from the first semester of the second year of implementation (August through December, 2004).
Critically, given the fact that NOVA's student body changes from half-year to half-year, Project ACHIEVE data truly can not be compared, from year to year, to determine its impact. However, staff perceptions of Project ACHIEVE's impact were evaluated, by comparing their perceptions of NOVA prior to Project ACHIEVE training and implementation (August, 2002) and after its first semester of implementation (December, 2002); and other implementation integrity and year-end evaluations of staff confidence in different Project ACHIEVE strategies also were conducted.
Below, the discipline and staff perception data are reported.
Student Discipline/Other Outcomes
Analyses comparing data averaged from the first semester of implementation (August, 2002 through December, 2002) with second semester data (January, 2003 through May, 2003) were conducted in the areas of attendance and discipline. These discipline data were then compared with data from the first semester of school in 2004.
The following results were reported:
- Attendance during Semester 1 (2002) averaged 80%, while it averaged 79% during Semester 2 (2003). Average student enrollment during Semester 1 was 90 students. During Semester 2, enrollment averaged 122 students.
- Discipline referrals to the Director's Office during Semester 1 (2002) averaged 9.2 per day and 15.26 per 100 students in the school. These referrals dropped during Semester 2 (2003), despite the significant increase in student enrollment, to 8.8 per day and 13.60 per 100 students. Two years later, during Semester 1 (2004), there were 15.92 discipline referrals per day to the Director's Office.
- During Semester 1 (2002), 22.4% of the discipline referrals involved special education students at NOVA. This percentage increased during Semester 2 (2003) where 25.6% of the discipline referrals involved special education students.
Staff Perceptions of School Climate/Behavior Management
NOVA staff completed the 58-item Scale of Effective School Discipline and Safety before Project ACHIEVE implementation (August, 2002) and after the first semester of implementation (December, 2002). Results from the five factors of this scale indicated the following:
- Staff believed that teachers' skills remained largely stable between August, 2002 and December, 2002 as reflected on the Teacher's Effective Classroom Management factor. Staff ratings on this factor averaged 2.80 (on a 5-point scale) in August, 2002 and 2.91 in December, 2002-- falling between 2-Agree and 3-Uncertain.
- Staff believed that students' behavior significantly improved from August, 2002 to December, 2002 as reflected on the Students' Positive Interactions and Respect factor. Staff ratings on this factor averaged 3.93 (on a 5-point scale) in August, 2002 and 1.75 in December, 2002-- beginning above the 3-Uncertain level and ending between the 1-Strongly Agree and 2-Agree levels.
- Staff believed that administrators and staff improved from August, 2002 and December, 2002 in the area reflected on the Holding Students Accountable for their Behavior: Administration and Staff factor. Staff ratings on this factor averaged 3.18 (on a 5-point scale) in August, 2002 and 2.72 in December, 2002-- finishing between 2-Agree and 3-Uncertain levels.
- Staff believed that their contributions to a positive school climate remained largely stable between August, 2002 and December, 2002 as reflected on the factor of the same name. Staff ratings on this factor averaged 2.62 (on a 5-point scale) in August, 2002 and 2.83 in December, 2002-- both ratings falling between 2-Agree and 3-Uncertain.
- Staff believed that school safety got somewhat safer between August, 2002 and December, 2002 as reflected on the School Safety and Security: Staff, Students, and School Grounds factor. Staff ratings on this factor averaged 2.81 (on a 5-point scale) in August, 2002 and 2.56 in December, 2002-- falling between 2-Agree and 3-Uncertain.
Staff Perceptions of Improvements in School Climate/Behavior Management
On the Scale of Effective School Discipline and Safety, NOVA staff rated the following items as improved from immediately before Project ACHIEVE implementation (August, 2002) through the end of the first semester of implementation (December, 2002):
- 5. It is safe to work in this school after students are dismissed.
- 12. This school is a safe and secure place to work during the normal school day.
- 15. Students are frequently rewarded or praised by faculty and staff forfollowing school rules.
- 16. Administrators support teachers in dealing with student discipline matters.
- 19. Students are taught the school rules.
- 23. Administrators enforce the student rules consistently and equitably.
- 29. Teachers have high and reasonable behavioral expectations of their students.
Teachers at this school are:
- 39. ...relaxed
- 42. ...innovative
- 43. …open to change
- 44. ...optimistic
- 45. Teachers at this school willingly accept responsibility for every student in the building.
- 48. Teachers at this school are willing to give the student peer group some responsibility for monitoring its own members.
- 52. Teachers at this school use data (academic or behavioral) to make decisions about students.
- 56. Teachers at this school involve students in identifying and selecting appropriate incentives and reinforcements for acceptable behavior.