Instead of resorting to the traditional punishment of sending a child to the principal’s office or a note home to parents when a student is acting up, a group of Bridgehampton School educators has decided to try and tackle behavioral issues before they actually happen by promoting positive behavior, empowering students and rewarding those who are setting the right example.
This week, the Bridgehampton School began to implement a program used in school districts across the country, Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS). The goal of the program is to incentivize good behavior, making students want to be courteous and respectful, not only in school, but at home and in the community.
Ken Giosi developed the PBIS plan for Bridgehampton with Jessica Rogers, Patrick Aiello, Jeffrey Neubauer and the rest of the school’s special education department this summer. Last Wednesday night, in a presentation to the school board, Giosi noted the program also enables teachers to observe each child’s behavior individually and pick up on patterns.
Giosi said the school will focus the program on students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but eventually PBIS would be implemented through the elementary, middle and high school grades.
The team developed a slogan for the program, “Bridgehampton ROCKS,” an acronym for the values the school considers most important — respect, organization, cooperation, kindness and safety.
“These are the core values we are looking to promote in our school,” said Giosi.
Teachers, administrators and even school crossing guards will be furnished with tickets, also known as “scholar dollars” in other PBIS programs, which can be redeemed by students for prizes or classroom rewards.
For October, the theme is safety. Students have been asked to follow good behavior guidelines while on the bus, walking from the bus to school and while in the gym for morning announcements.
For example, students who keep their hands to themselves and feet on the floor while on the school bus stand to earn a ticket, as do those who use the sidewalk while walking into the school or help a younger classmate along the way.
The program will be expanded every two weeks, said Rogers, to add a new element, such as behavior in the classroom, the bathrooms and in the cafeteria.
Each class is monitored in terms of how it is performing, as are individual students, and everyone is kept apprised of who is in first, second and third place creating a competitive spirit around PBIS that Giosi hopes will make the program more exciting for students.
The school will also host monthly meetings, “The Hive Huddle,” where educators will lay out their expectations to students, but also inform them about how well they are doing in the program.
According to Rogers, on Tuesday morning, tickets were already being passed out, and the students were visibly excited. She said the school has worked out a rewards program with Panera Bread, but is looking for other Bridgehampton businesses interested in teaming up with the school.
PBIS was not the only program Giosi and his team devised this summer. Like every school, Bridgehampton is responsible to meet requirements for the federally mandated Response to Intervention (RTI), which demands schools develop academic invention programs to help teachers intervene with students struggling to learn.
The PBIS program will be part of a three-pronged effort in RTI at Bridgehampton. The other intervention programs revolve around special and general education, detecting learning problems in a student’s first few years of school and giving teachers proven intervention techniques to help students overcome their struggles before they are classified as a learning disability.
“We wanted to develop a cache of research-based interventions and lessons,” said Giosi of the department’s strategies for special education students. “Plans that can more effectively address the needs of our students.”
Neubauer focused on math interventions. He said using a program like Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces (ALEKS), a web based assessment and learning system, helps educators identify strengths and weakness in particular students and the appropriate pace for them to tackle subjects. It also offers a progress monitor.
“It is not only showing you what is wrong, but it is showing you how it is improving,” said Neubauer.
After performing this kind of assessment, teachers can then try and use intervention techniques, for example using physical objects when teaching addition or subtraction.
Neubauer has created an entire matrix of tested inventions that teachers in Bridgehampton can use to address specific problems in math.
Aiello has created a similar matrix for students struggling with English Language Arts, offering step-by-step instructions with tips and examples for every classroom.
“What we are really trying to do as a special education department is build support for the general education staff,” said Giosi. “Rather than the sort of typical brainstorming, we are coming up with researched based ideas and procedures to follow.”
In general education, the school will also be monitoring its students through assessments and individualized instruction. Intervention strategies will be mapped out for teachers to help students overcome academic struggles.
“The goal is to keep kids in general education,” said board member Elizabeth Kotz.
“If this gets implemented properly, I am going to see fewer referrals,” said Giosi. “The greatest proportion of students in special education are classified as learning disabled.”