Gloversville schools hope rewards get results

GLOVERSVILLE – The city school district plans to reward students’ positive behavior with an eye toward improving the graduation rate.

Student suspensions and absenteeism hurt student performance and make the district’s goal of increasing the graduation rate more difficult. District officials say promoting positive behavior can produce positive results.

This summer, some district faculty and staff participated in training on a new program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

According to the district website, training will continue in the coming months once program details are finalized and approved by the Board of Education. Superintendent Michael Vanyo plans to launch the PBIS program during the 2013-14 school year.

“Improving the learning environment for all students and reducing suspensions and absenteeism through the PBIS program is a key step on our way toward improving our graduation rate,” Vanyo said on the website. “If we have more students in school, we will have more students graduate and have successful futures.”

School officials have not yet decided what type of behavior would be rewarded in each grade level and what type of rewards the students would receive.

The high school already has been rewarding students for good behavior.

High school students last school year were asked to abide by classroom rules and, in exchange, were given privileges, including the opportunity to eat lunch outside the cafeteria, use electronics and, for seniors, leave campus for lunch.

Changing some high school rules – such as allowing students to use electronic devices in the hallways between classes – had a profound effect on the school’s environment, cultivating mutual respect between students and teachers, according to the district.

At the high school, the number of behavior referrals that resulted in discipline, including detention and suspension, has dropped since the 2009-10 school year. In 2010, there were more than 500 behavior referrals at the high school as of March of that school year. There were about 150 during the same period in 2012-13.

Mark Batty, who was the high school’s assistant principal through the end of the 2012-13 school year and is now principal of Gloversville Middle School, attributes the reduction in referrals to the rewards and privileges.

Establishing clear standards and rewarding positive behavior will be carried out throughout the district this school year, officials said.

High School Principal Richard DeMallie said when the PBIS system is in place this school year, the district will review it to understand which behavior programs work.

He said the program is different from other positive-behavior programs because it is buildingwide and not targeted toward any specific grade or type of students.

Under the PBIS system, even those students who always behave will be rewarded.

“PBIS will decrease the student behaviors that result in suspensions and lost learning time,” said Rosanne Plumadore, the district’s assistant director for support services. She is involved in implementing PBIS throughout the district.

“The philosophy is to be proactive, rewarding positive behavior, rather than reactive, punishing inappropriate behavior,” Plumadore said.

Plumadore said each building will have a PBIS team. Coaches and an administrative team will work together to create a positive environment in each building. She said each plan will be tweaked to meet the needs and interests of the students in that particular building.

One issue hampering the district’s efforts to increase its graduation rate is truancy. Students who are frequently absent miss instructional time and are less likely to graduate, the district says.

A major focus of PBIS will be to create a positive school climate that encourages students to attend school.

Batty said at the high school level, flexibility is key to making sure students stay in school and graduate. Programs such as night school and career training help keep students engaged in school and, by extension, ensure they continue to attend.

District leaders are confident reducing suspensions and increasing student attendance through the PBIS program and other district initiatives will result in better outcomes for students.

Board President Richard Carlson said the district will aim to reinforce positive behavior. Hopefully, he said, that will reduce disruptive behavior. He said negative behavior disrupts not only those misbehaving, but the class as a whole.

“The rules that you ask students to follow will be primarily the same in all of the buildings, and that is really important because we are trying to have consistency throughout the district,” said board Vice President E. Lynn Brown.

Plumadore said the district anticipates bringing the PBIS plan before the Board of Education later this month for approval.