Schoolwide Change at the Secondary Level

High Behavioral Success—Sustained and Replicated

In 1996, disciplinary referrals were on the rise at McLoughlin Middle School in Meford, Oregon. During the 1995-96 school year, there were 6007 referrals for a student body of just 804.

Alternative Approach

Recognizing that the school's traditional disciplinary procedures were not working, Principal Cynda Rickert and a building team attended an inservice with Dr. Randy Sprick on Foundations. Rickert and her staff came away with a proactive, positive, and instructional blueprint for change. The practical steps of the Foundations process would change not only the behavior but the entire atmosphere at McLoughlin.

The Foundations Process

The McLoughlin staff followed the Foundations improvement cycle by:

  1. Reviewing meaningful data
  2. Prioritizing problem areas
  3. Revising existing policies and developing proactive strategies
  4. Adopting a new plan
  5. Implementing the plan

The following is an example from the Foundations process as implemented by the McLoughlin staff. The McLoughlin building team observed their common areas and surveyed staff. Tardiness was targeted as a high-priority problem. Next, the building team developed a proactive strategy they called the sweep. The strategy included:

  1. Approaching students who were standing around during passing time, addressing them by name, and reminding them that class was about to begin,
  2. Walking students to class, while explaining the importance of arriving on time and being ready to learn, and,
  3. Acknowledging students who changed their behavior by arriving on time.

Once the sweep was developed, the building team created lessons and trained the staff. Procedures were adopted by the staff and implemented completing the first cycle in the Foundations process.

Outstanding Results

Using the Foundations process, McLoughlin developed a proactive and positive discipline policy with multiple strategies to improve behavior. In the first year of implementation, McLoughlin Middle School's disciplinary referrals dropped from 6007 to 2078. Continuing the improvement cycle, referrals dropped from 2078 to 850 in the second year of implementation—an 85% drop across two years. According to Cynda Rickert, "The climate at McLoughlin went from tense and edgy to safe and welcoming, causing staff, student, and parent morale to rise dramatically."

Replicating Success at the High School Level

In 1998, Rickert became principal of South Medford High School, where she immediately initiated the Foundations process. With the winning combination of Foundations, a strong staff commitment, and hard work, referrals at South Medford High School dropped 63%, from 4144 to 1541, in their first year of implementation.

Sustaining Results at McLoughlin and South Medford High

In an upcoming issue of Principal Leadership, Rickert concludes, "It has been five years since we implemented Foundations at South Medford High, eight years since we began at McLoughlin. Today, referrals at both schools remain low, school climate remains positive, and our staff continues its commitment to a discipline process that is proactive, positive, and instructional. Our students know that they are valued and honored, but they are not in charge, and it makes a positive difference."

Watch for Cynda Rickert's article in Principal Leadership.


Note:  Cynda's article, A Blueprint for Safe and Civil Schools was published in September, 2005. It is available online for NASSP members at