Positive behavior reinforced under program at B-P

BROADALBIN – The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District staff has implemented a positive behavior program that promotes students doing not only things for themselves, but helping others.

The new program, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, is headed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Special Education and provides schools with guidelines for implementing behavioral policies.

Under the program, if students in a Broadalbin-Perth school go out of their way to help a classmate, faculty or staff member, they may be rewarded with praise or a treat.

Students who repeatedly show positive behavior have the opportunity to attend celebratory events such as a pizza party or a hot chocolate and cookie mixer.

Director of Special Programs Christine Foglia said the faculty and staff in the district are noticing a change in students’ attitudes, which is partly due to a change in their communication with students.

“Instead of expressing frustration of a student not being here, we can switch our language around and think about the power of our words to welcome the child,” said Foglia. “‘Glad you made it, we have a lot of important work to do, let’s get started.’ Just switching things like that is making a big difference and making a connection with kids.”

Foglia and high school Assistant Principal Adam Barnhart gave an update to the Board of Education on the positive-behavior program Monday.

“We have changed the way staff interacts with students,” Barnhart said. “We are trying to focus on the small behaviors like ‘oh you don’t have a pencil and [are] not ready, get out.’ That’s not what we are looking for. We really don’t want the kid out of the class especially if it isn’t a behavior issue.”

According to Foglia, a committee consisting of both high school and middle school faculty, administrators and teachers aides was formed at the beginning of September to remodel the district’s disciplinary program.

The schools are starting out small to bring gradual change before upping the expectations of the students, said Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson.

“This is a behavior modification just as much for the adults as it is for our students,” Tomlinson said about the program. “We will get to a point where we are not giving out cookies and hot chocolate, but we need to get there. This is really just the start.”

Foglia compared this behavior program to car insurance “safe driver programs” where a consistent display of driving safely will earn the driver rewards by a reduction in the price.

The district decided to focus on the issue of tardiness during the first phase of the behavior plan, Barnhart said.

Students who were not late to their classes were positively reinforced by allowing one student from each grade to be chosen at random to attend a party consisting of food with their friends.

Barnhart said the district uses statistical information from the school’s databases and focuses on the most prevalent problems.

Since initiating the first phase of the committee’s plan, the district has already noticed a measurable difference in the students’ conduct.

Tomlinson said both the middle and high school have seen more than a 40 percent decrease in the number of referrals for student misbehavior from September through December of last year compared to referral numbers during those months in 2012.