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Safe & Civil Schools Newsletter

January 2008

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Evidence-Based Interventions that Work—Planned Discussion

Do you have students who are chronically tardy, argumentative, disorganized, or aggressive? There are a variety of evidence-based interventions you can use in the classroom to curb just about any behavior, but one of the easiest and quickest to implement is something called Planned Discussion.

Planned Discussion with a student is just what it sounds like. One or more adults confer with a student about a particular concern and develop a plan for resolving it. Because this is such a simple intervention, discussion is often overlooked, but it can have a positive impact on misbehavior of any kind.

With a child whose language skills are sufficient, discussion should be an integral part of every intervention plan. For a minor concern or in the early stages of a moderate problem, this intervention may be sufficient in and of itself. Even if a problem requires more intensive intervention, engaging in discussion is usually worth the time. It will almost certainly improve the results of other interventions you try.

The purpose of a Planned Discussion is to demonstrate your concern in such a way that the student truly understands it, to involve the student in brainstorming solutions to her own problems, and to let that student know with certainty that you are there to help her learn and grow.

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Prepare the meeting beforehand.

A. Identify the central concern.
B. Establish a focus.
C. Determine who should participate.
D. Schedule the discussion for a neutral time.
E. Make an appointment with the student.
F. Plan to keep a written record of the discussion.

Step 2: Meet with the student.

A. Work with the student to define your concerns.
B. Brainstorm actions that each participant in the discussion can take to help the student resolve the concern.
C. Set up an informal action plan.
D. Schedule a follow-up meeting.
E. Conclude the discussion with words of encouragement.
F. If appropriate, share a copy of the written record of your discussion with the student and parents.

Step 3: Follow up with the student.

A. Encourage student efforts.
B. Meet once a week with the student to discuss progress and adjust the action plan as necessary.
C. Determine whether more structured interventions are required.
D. Provide continued follow-up, support, and encouragement.

As you can see from these three steps, you will need to allocate time to implement this intervention with integrity. However, most discussions only take about five minutes. You might try taking the student quietly aside during an independent work period. Or, try scheduling discussions before school, during recess, or after school. However you do it, make the effort. The time you spend on a Planned Discussion will more often than not result in an early resolution to a brewing problem, saving everyone time, effort, and frustration.

A well conceived discussion may help a student understand the situation from your perspective and will help the student know that you are interested in him individually. Through discussion the student can learn to take an active role in the process of growing and maturing. In some cases, this intervention may be sufficient to motivate a student to change his behavior. Even when a Planned Discussion alone is insufficient to resolve a problem, it reinforces the power of other concurrent or subsequent interventions. Planned Discussion is a natural launch pad for interventions and should be an integral part of any further planning that you do.

—Excerpt from Interventions: Evidence-Based Behavioral Strategies for Individual Students, Second Edition, available from Pacific Northwest Publishing early 2008.


Different Schools, Same Process, Great Results!

Probably the most asked question that comes into the Safe & Civil Schools office is, "Will your programs work for me?" Before they purchase one of our products or services, educators want to know whether our approach will work in their schools, classrooms, or districts.

The answer is an unequivocal (but conditional), "Yes!" One of the greatest features of the Safe & Civil Schools approach is that it is entirely flexible. Each school or district tailors SCS strategies to fit its environment, values, cultures, and norms. And, if the program fits (like a comfortable pair of shoes), people are more likely to stick with it long enough accomplish their goals.

This is not to say that if you employ an SCS approach, you will be instantly successful in curbing misbehavior. Implementation takes leadership, collegiality, commitment, dedication, and elbow grease! And sustaining the process requires even more. But, it can be done.

We'd like to introduce you to three very different high schools located across the country that are doing it. Each is involved in an SCS project and each is enjoying a great deal of success—thanks to the commitment and hard work manifested by their respective staffs.

Interlake High School, Bellevue, Washington

Interlake High School is situated just across the lake from Seattle in suburban Bellevue, Washington.

Opened in 1967, the school buildings have undergone significant renovation over the years, the most recent having been completed in 2005. Today the campus includes a new 377-seat performing arts center and a state-of-the-art technology building that holds the district's Information Technology Center. Each classroom is equipped with interactive white boards and LCD projectors. The site is both hard wired and wireless, enabling students and staff to use computers virtually anywhere on campus.

In 1995, Interlake began offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in an effort to prepare students to succeed in college—and it seems to be working. They have never failed to make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and, since 2004, they have appeared among the top 100 schools in Newsweek's annual list of "America's Best High Schools."

Last year (2006-07), 918 students attended classes taught by 56 classroom teachers. Just over half of the student population is white (57%), almost a quarter is Asian (23%), and the other quarter is divided between Hispanic (12%), Black (4%), and American Indian (<1%) students. Twenty-four percent of the student population receives a free or reduced-price meal and 13 percent receive special education services. [Cite]

Interlake began its SCS implementation in the spring of 2005 by sending out surveys to school stakeholders. They began full implementation in the 2005-06 school year. Since then, suspensions have significantly declined, as illustrated in the accompanying graph. Click on the graph image to enlarge.

In addition to the hard data displayed in the graph, school staff reports that the school climate has become more respectful. One example of this change in atmosphere is evident in the way seniors orchestrate their annual Senior Prank Day. In past years, seniors have executed a variety of somewhat destructive and costly pranks. In the last two years, however, seniors have checked with staff beforehand to ensure that they are not overly inconveniencing anyone. They have chosen pranks that more exemplify the intent of Senior Prank Day—to devise amusing, yet mischievous tricks!

South Oak Cliff High School, Dallas, Texas

Roughly 2200 miles southeast of Interlake lies the second high school in this review.

Located just minutes from downtown Dallas, South Oak Cliff High School was built in 1951. Like many buildings constructed during that era, South Oak Cliff (affectionately known as SOC, pronounced "sock") reflects its function. A two-story rectangular structure with tall classroom windows and inner courtyards, SOC just looks like a school.

Students undertake a fairly traditional program in their seven-period school day. Beyond the standard curricula, however, students can choose Advanced Placement (AP) or Dual Credit courses (rigorous academic classes that satisfy both college and high school credit requirements). To encourage balance in their lives, students are offered a broad range of programs and activities, from the standard athletic and artistic activities of sports teams and drama classes to the more innovative Young Life, Academic Decathlon, and AVID programs.

SOC is home to 1475 students, 101 teachers, and six administrators—plus a variety of support staff. Roughly 74 percent of the student population is African American and 25 percent is Hispanic. Less than one percent of students are of white, Native American, or Asian/Pacific Islander descent. Sixty-eight percent of the student body is on the free/reduced price lunch program and 43 percent receive special education services. South Oak Cliff is a Title 1 school. [Cite]

As part of a whole-district initiative, South Oak Cliff began its implementation of the Safe & Civil Schools program during the 2006-07 school year. At the end of the first six weeks of the program, tardies had decreased by 48 percent. Since then, there has been a 50 percent reduction in major and mandatory discipline referrals and incidents as well as improved academic achievement. The accompanying graph shows the increase in TAKS scores. Click on the graph image to enlarge.

But, even more exciting, is the increase in teacher attendance. According to Principal Regina Jones, prior to the 2006-07 school year South Oak Cliff had one of the highest rates in the district for teacher absences. Since the implementation of Safe & Civil Schools, teacher attendance has risen by 25 percent!

Ocoee High School, Ocoee, Florida

Leaving Dallas and traveling southeast another 1100 miles, we reach the third school in our profile, a high school in Ocoee, Florida.

Completed in 2005, Ocoee High School is actually a collection of schools. Applying the small communities learning model, the high school building accommodates four smaller "schools within a school." Named Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, each small school, or "house," holds an equivalent number of students, offers the same courses, and operates under the same procedures.

During the 2006-07 school year, Ocoee served 3181 students. Forty-two percent of these students were Black, 37 percent were white, 15 percent were Hispanic, and four percent were Asian. The remaining students characterized themselves as multiracial (1.3%) and American Indian (<1%). Roughly 30 percent of the student population is on the Federal free or reduced price meal plan and 12 percent receive special education services. [Cite]

Ocoee has been working with SCS since it opened its doors in August 2005. Over the past two school years, Ocoee has done a remarkable job of managing behavior, as the accompanying graph will show. Click on the graph image to enlarge.

In addition, the "staffulty" at Ocoee has virtually eliminated in-school suspensions (ISS).

One of the foundational premises of the SCS philosophy is that a school staff should make policy decisions based on data. Further, how they choose to implement a given decision should fit with how the staff operates.

In looking over the data they collected, staff realized that too many students were spending too much time in ISS and not enough time in an instructional setting. Consequently, last spring when Principal Michael Armbruster challenged his staff to develop an intervention program that would avoid consequences that take instructional time away from students, they responded with a solution that fits their situation.

As a result, this year Ocoee inaugurated a loss of lunch privilege (LOP). All offenses that previously resulted in ISS were assigned a certain number of LOPs. For instance, tardy results in two days LOP. Because high school students relish their social contacts, loss of lunch is viewed as a serious deterrent and has reduced incidents of misbehavior dramatically.

[Please note that a loss of lunch does not mean that students don't eat. They do, but in the LOP room as they work on assignments rather than with their friends in the lunch areas.]

ISS is still used on occasion, but not to the extent it was previously. So far this year, they have averaged 4-5 students per day, never reaching a headcount of 10 in a given day. Over the past two years, they generally had 25 plus per day. Many of those students were in ISS for the entire day, some for as many as three days, resulting in a dramatic loss of instructional time.

The Overview

Creating organizational change is difficult, but that is exactly what happened in each of these schools. With commitment, tenacity, perseverance, and hard work, the staffs and students in these schools have made positive changes in climate and culture, improved behavior, and increased time for learning.

This speaks highly of the dedication displayed by leadership and staff, but it also highlights the flexibility and proficiency of Safe & Civil Schools materials and programs. In spite of differing community and institutional demographics, all of these schools have used the same programs to achieve remarkable results. By employing the Safe & Civil Schools approach, these different staffs have tailored programs that address their specific needs and by so doing, they have improved the lives of the children in their care.

First Annual Safe & Civil Schools National Conference!

This summer, join us at the elegant Hilton Portland for more content, more presenters, and more tools!

We've changed our name and our venue to reflect our new expanded conference format! As in previous years, we will be offering our traditional Train the Trainer sessions, but this year we've added more sessions on general content as well. We've invited more presenters who will provide you with more strategies and tools to help make your schools safer and more civil.

Please join us in downtown Portland on July 7-11, 2008, for our First Annual Safe & Civil Schools National Conference!

For more information, visit our website or phone 1-800-323-8819.

Please sign up early—registration is limited!



Thought you'd like to know...

On December 1, 2007, Long Beach Unified School District in Long Beach, California received the prestigious Golden Bell Award for its Safe and Civil Schools Initiative. Read their press release!

The Golden Bell Award, presented annually by the California School Boards Association (CSBA), recognizes exemplary programs that support teaching and learning in California schools.

Safe & Civil Schools would like to congratulate the staff, students, parents, and community of Long Beach for their hard work and commitment in earning this Golden Bell!


Readings & Reports...

Research shows that one of the primary features of an effective school is a strong relationship between the school and its families and community partners. However, making those connections proves difficult for many school staffs.

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), a private, nonprofit education research, development, and dissemination corporation, has established the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, whose purpose is to synthesize over 30 years of research into useful resources that schools can use to connect with families and community.

One of the resources available on their website is a section of "Strategy Briefs." These are lessons from the field—policies, actions, and programs that people are actually using to make a real difference for students, their families, and their communities. Download the PDF, Organizing Family and Community Connections with Schools: How Do School Staff Build Meaningful Relationships with all Stakeholders for a taste of what they offer or visit the SEDL Connections website to browse other resources.



InterventionsPacific Northwest Publishing is pleased to announce the imminent release of a new edition of this practical book. Interventions: Evidence-Based Behavioral Strategies for Individual Students, Second Edition will help teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and others who work with challenging students in planning and implementing validated, tiered strategies to increase motivation and improve behavior.

In each of its 19 chapters, the authors discuss a different evidence-based intervention and provide information on implementation, sample forms, charts, and data collection tools. The book includes a CD with reproducibles.

Watch the Pacific Northwest Publishing website for announcements regarding availability.


Safe & Civil Schools Exhibits — We will be exhibiting at these national conventions this year:

  • NASP – February 6-9, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • NASSP – February 22-24, San Antonio, Texas
  • ASCD – March 15-17, New Orleans, Louisiana

Please stop by our booth and let us know how we can help you improve your school climate!


CHAMPs Workshop in Texas — Our CHAMPs Workshop in Kalamazoo, Michigan was so successful, we've decided to do it again!

On November 4-5, 2008, we will be in Humble, Texas with a presentation on CHAMPs: A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management.

Come learn how you can use CHAMPs in your classroom to design (or fine-tune) a proactive and positive behavior plan that directly teaches students how to behave respectfully and responsibly!

We will post workshop and registration information on our website as it becomes available.


Upcoming Events — Randy Sprick and Safe & Civil Schools consultants continue to provide presentations across the country. Some of these include open registration. Registration may be limited and/or may involve a fee. Contact information is provided for each on our website.





Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
--Margaret Mead





As the new year begins, the staff at Safe & Civil Schools wish you a productive and positive school year!

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