It could make a difference at your school too.
At Safe and Civil Schools, we strongly believe that the work we do is making the world a better place, but we're always glad to hear concrete evidence of that. In May 2004, we spoke to Nancy Kling, who was a Coordinator of Special Education for the Clear Creek Independent School District, located near Houston, Texas.
Ms. Kling earned her MA in psychology and began her career in education twelve years ago as an associate school psychologist. For five years she administered assessments for special education. She spent six years as the behavior specialist for the district and then one year as special education coordinator. It was in this capacity that Nancy initiated the implementation of Foundations at Brookside Intermediate School.
Here is Nancy's story...
Brookside Intermediate School, one of eight intermediate schools in the Clear Creek Independent School District, serves 1,233 students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The school is located in a suburban area near Houston with a population reflective of the region?s demographics:
Non-Hispanic Caucasian 57.3% Hispanic 18.9% Black, Non-Hispanic 14.4% Asian/Pacific Islander 9.2% Alaskan/Native American 0.2%
Brookside is overcrowded. The population is diverse. At-risk students make up a fairly high percentage of students. In addition, at the start of the 2002-03 year, the school was changing from a block system (four 90-minute periods a day) to the traditional system (eight 45-minute periods a day). Staff expected the change to increase hallway misbehavior and tardiness. They were extremely concerned. That?s where Randy Sprick and Foundations comes in.
I first heard of Randy several years ago at an in-service at our regional service center. I was struck that his ideas aligned with what I thought we should be doing in schools with students. I heard him speak in Austin and then later in Galveston and was impressed with his experience and the depth of his knowledge. When I received a brochure about an upcoming workshop Randy was to present in Humble, Texas, I began to think about implementing Foundations in Clear Creek.
I was able to interest Marlene Skiba, Brookside?s principal, in the project. She agreed to have a team of teachers accompany me to the workshop in Humble to learn more about Foundations.
After the training, the team was on fire—they were truly excited about what we could accomplish at Brookside! They, and several other interested staff members, spent the next two weeks on their own time developing the fall implementation.
Tardiness was already problem at Brookside. Tardy students interrupted teaching and distracted other students. In addition, teachers counted the number of tardies for each student, making an office referral only when that student received three in that class. Under the new system, this meant a student could be tardy 16 times without repercussion (twice in each of their eight classes).
In an effort to reduce tardiness and regain instructional time, the team targeted hallway behavior. They wrote lesson plans to teach new hallway behaviors. They printed signs to hang in the halls delineating new expectations. They even made several short videos (using students) showing inappropriate and appropriate hallway behavior. They also developed a ?training schedule? so that all staff members were teaching all students the same expectations at the same time.
The new process also ensured that every time a student was tardy to any class, there were repercussions. Additionally, to protect class time, the team determined that tardy students should be ?processed? by a staff member not involved in teaching a class.
The team presented their plan to the faculty. It was accepted and they were off and running. Teachers spent the first two weeks of school teaching the new hallway expectations without actually counting tardies, thus giving students ample time to learn the new rules. When they started counting in the third week, they had 183 tardies, an average of 37 a day. By the next-to-the-last week of school, there were 83 tardies for an average of 17 a day. Clearly, over the course of the year, the students were doing a better job of getting to class on time.
Although hallway behavior and arriving to class on time was the main focus of the process, other indicators suggest that the change at Brookside may not just be limited to tardiness. For instance, during the 2002-2003 school year, the school made 24 referrals to Clear Creek's Disciplinary Alternative Education Placement (DAEP). During the 2003-2004 school year, they referred 15. Last year 18% of students sent to DAEP from our district's eight intermediate schools came from Brookside. During 2003-2004, only 13% of intermediate school students at DAEP were from Brookside. Brookside has seen a decrease in DAEP referrals this year, while many of our other intermediate schools have not.
In addition to the tangible indicators above, the change in school climate is palpable. At one of the workshops I give on positive schoolwide discipline for the district, I mentioned the Foundations program at Brookside. Afterwards, an audience member (a district employee who also happens to be a Brookside parent) told me that Brookside had recently held their first dance of the year and that this was the first dance she knew of where there had been NO behavior problems. I can?t say that Foundations is responsible for that, but something is happening at Brookside that is changing student behavior.
After a presentation about Foundations to a community group where I shared the promising results we were seeing at Brookside, a woman told me, "I visit many of the schools in your district as part of my job and this year, I've noticed things are different at Brookside. The kids are nicer, they open the door for me, and they apologize if they bump into me. They didn?t do that at Brookside last year and they don't do that in the other schools."
It is really exciting to see the students? behavior changing. Even though we've basically concentrated on hallway behavior, it is spilling over and affecting overall behavior as well. I can see and feel the difference when I walk down the hallway at "passing" time without being deafened by loud voices, slammed locker doors, and what used to be the typical chaos involved in changing classes. Even community members are noticing!
The word is spreading. One additional intermediate school will be implementing Foundations this year and others are talking about it. And Brookside remains committed to their Foundations process, planning to implement Guidelines for Success on day one.
I am excited about the difference Foundations can make in a school—the difference it can make in a student?s life. Academics are important, but no matter how much math and science and reading we teach a child, being able to get along with other people will determine how successful that student will be.
Brookside is still overcrowded—the kids are still shoulder-to-shoulder—but they no longer trample you in the hall. The building feels different. It's an environmental and cultural change. I'm not the only one who will say Foundations is making a real difference at Brookside. Just ask the children!