New National School Discipline Consensus Report Just Released

New Report Discusses Ways to Improve School Learning Conditions for Students and Staff. . . and How to Break the "School to Prison" Link for Behaviorally Challenging Students

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you have been well during the past three weeks, and that (for most of you) the end of the school year has gone smoothly. As for me, I spent three days in San Francisco last month--presenting to over 400 participants at a three-day conference focusing on school discipline and how to handle behaviorally challenging students.

I also just completed a brief for a due process case involving parents' right to get an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense, and have been on-site consulting with a number of schools that had significantly high number of office discipline referrals this past year, and want a better way to keep students in class, positively engaged, and academically successful.

And so, our topic/announcement for the day. . .

Today's Focus-- A New National Report on School Discipline Just Announced

This week, the Council of State Governments' Justice Center released a new report, The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System.

This report presents "a comprehensive set of consensus-based and field-driven recommendations to improve conditions for learning for all students and educators, better support students with behavioral needs, improve police-schools partnerships, and keep students out of the juvenile justice system for minor offenses." The Report identifies over two dozen policy and 60 school-based recommendations to help keep more students in productive classrooms and out of courtrooms.

These policies and recommendations are organized in six sections:

  • Conditions for Learning
  • Targeted Behavioral Interventions
  • School-Police Partnerships
  • Courts and Juvenile Justice
  • Information Sharing
  • Data Collection

Throughout the Report, it is emphasized that:

Reactive, punishment-oriented, and zero tolerance programs do not work;

What schools are doing in the areas of school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management also is not working; and

We need to rethink our approach to "school discipline" using more proactive, field-tested, and outcome-based approaches.

Significantly, Project ACHIEVE and the importance of positive behavioral support systems are referenced in the Report. I know that this Report is one that every educator should review and consider--especially relative to ways to put its various recommendations into practice.

Considering Project ACHIEVE as your School Discipline/Positive Behavioral Support Model

Project ACHIEVE remains the only national, evidence-based school improvement model that has both PBIS and multi-tiered Response-to-Intervention components. Relative to school discipline, behavior management, and student self-management, we focus heavily on prevention and early intervention in order to minimize the need for suspensions, expulsions, alternative school placements, and juvenile justice involvement.

In order to shift toward prevention and intervention, districts and schools need to:

  • Focus on teaching and reinforcing students' interpersonal, social problem solving, conflict prevention and resolution, and emotional coping skills from preschool through high school.
  • Do this by implementing a systematic "Health, Mental Health, and Wellness" curriculum (to complement your literacy, math, science, and other curricula).
  • "Job embed" the skills above into the classroom and academic program-- teaching and reinforcing students for interacting successfully (a) on an individual level, (b) in cooperative and other instructional groups and lab experiences, and (c) within their classrooms, at their grade levels, and across the school.
  • Integrate prosocial strategies and approaches into teachers' classroom management systems, and evaluate them (through the district's teacher evaluation system) for consistently using them.
  • Create a continuum of services, supports, strategies, and/or programs for students (with disabilities, mental health issues, or who are just emotionally or behaviorally struggling) that are implemented through an effective Student Assistance Team process.
  • Plan, implement and evaluate these approaches every year as part of the school and district's strategic planning and School Improvement Plan processes.

Project ACHIEVE PBIS/School Discipline Planning and Implementation Guidebook

For almost 30 years and across the country, we have been helping schools and districts with approaches that-- when implemented correctly and in a sustained way-- have successfully improved school climate and safety, classroom management and engagement, and students' prosocial and academic outcomes.

These approaches also have been used--over the past decade--with the Arkansas Department of Education through its State Improvement/Personnel Development Grant (SIG/SPDG) with significantly positive results relative to positive school climate, student classroom engagement, disproportionate office discipline referrals and school suspensions, and academic achievement.

I hope that you will download and read the new School Discipline Consensus Report.

Meanwhile, for those of you who just finished your school year, have a great break. For those of you still working (in whatever capacity), I hope that you are successful, safe, and productive.