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School Discipline: Positive Reinforcement

WGXA takes a look at a program that is already making a big dent in discipline problems in some local schools / WGXA

MACON, Ga. -- WGXA looked at the numbers behind out of school suspensions, spankings and in school suspensions as our "On Your Side" investigation uncovered some surprising numbers in Middle Georgia during the past few weeks.

Now, we look at a program that is already making a big dent in discipline problems in some local schools.

It's called PBIS, or Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports.

If PBIS was a religion, you could call Bibb County Howard Middle School Principal Dr. Lindsey Allen an evangelist.

“It doesn't matter where you are in our school, you can be in the hallway, you can even be in the library, you can be in the cafeteria, you can be in the classroom, the PBIS matrix is displayed. Even if you go into the bathrooms you'll see a column of the PBIS matrix," Allen said.

At the beginning of the school year students go through a training session explaining positive behavioral intervention and supports, and learning exactly what kind of behavior is expected. Then, throughout the year, there are sessions for new transfers so no one is left out.

“It just provides all of our students with common expectations no matter where we are, these are the expectations for Howard Middle School and our students," Allen said. “And what it's done is provided us with a common language and no matter where students are and what teacher they're with, they know exactly what is expected of them."

That common language is built around the Howard huskies acronym of P.A.C.K.

Students like Camille Tolbert know it by heart.

“P is 'portray a positive attitude', a is 'accept responsibility,' c--'choose to be respectful,' and k--'keep learning first,'" she said.

Tolbert said it's part of the language of the classroom.

“If you're fooling around in class they'll say, 'You’re not keeping learning first,' or if you're talking back to a teacher--'It's not chose to be respectful' or if you forgot your homework or you didn't bring your pencil to class it's not accepting your responsibility," she said.

The big key with PBIS: Catch students doing things right.

“If you look at research, if you look at schools, 80 to 90 percent of our kids never get into trouble," Allen said. "They do the right thing all the time, but we never celebrate those students and we focus on the kids that are doing wrong. And PBIS helps you focus on the kids that are doing it right."

The P.T.O. helps make that happen by raising money for things the students can buy with the pack bucks they earn for good behavior.

This exchange between Allen and a PTO parent shows just how much the organization’s means.

“We have Pack Parties is what we call them so students can attend Pack Parties and play basketball, or they can go through the concession stand and use their pack money to buy things," Allen said. "So we're always rewarding students for what they are doing correctly. And we have parents like Ms. Weaver here who support that.. and what would you say about PBIS?"

“I think PBIS is an excellent tool for our positive behavior with the kids," Condra Weaver replied. “Because they get rewarded when they show and behave the way they are supposed to behave and I think it's an excellent tool at Howard Middle School."

PBIS has created some impressive results already, with big cuts in in school suspension and out of school suspension.

“Since 2013-14 we've cut our number of referrals to OSS [Out of School Suspension] and ISS [In School Suspension] almost in half so it was over 800 back in ‘13-‘14 and this year ‘16-‘17, based on our projections, we're going to cut that in half, so we're going to be just over 400,” Allen said. “So you know the No. 1 factor in student achievement is the teacher, so students have to be in class to hear the teacher. So if you can reduce the number of ISS and OSS days that they miss class then you're going to get higher student achievement, you're going to have students that are more engaged."

And Dr. Allen said that's when the magic happens.

“When kids are successful in school, when they get involved in extra-curricular activities whether it be a club or it could be athletics they'll want to come to school. They'll come to school and they'll be successful," Allen said.

Allen has much more to say about discipline in school, the power of PBIS and the importance of quality teachers. Watch more of our interview with him outside of his comments in our story below. To watch from the app, click here.

We've also got the link to school discipline numbers from throughout Middle Georgia where you can check out your county. You can find those here.

And we'd like to hear from you. Comment on this story. What do you think about discipline in the schools and the direction we're headed?

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