Changing behavior, boosting grades

Fifth grade students at Houston Upper Elementary School point the way on the Road Trip To Success. Shown are, front from left, Alex Ivy, Aaliyah Robertson, Emily Pratt and Jacovey Golden and back left, HUES Principal John Ellison. (Photo by Floyd Ingram)

Fifth grade students at Houston Upper Elementary School point the way on the Road Trip To Success. Shown are, front from left, Alex Ivy, Aaliyah Robertson, Emily Pratt and Jacovey Golden and back left, HUES Principal John Ellison.
(Photo by Floyd Ingram)

HOUSTON – A positive approach to discipline creates a positive learning environment and gives students a positive outlook on life.

The Houston Upper Elementary School implemented PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support) last year and has been named a model school by program authors at the state level.

“The goal is to prevent behavior problems from occurring,” said HUES Principal John Ellison. “We have worked very hard to show there are rewards for good behavior.

“I like it and I think our teachers like it because it very positive in its approach,” said Ellison. “It has helped change the atmosphere at this school. We also have the data to prove it is effective.”

Two years ago HUES was seeing an average of five students sent to the office each day for behavior problems. Today that number has dropped to 2.5 in a school with 411 students.

Ellison said this is not a program that hands out candy and gifts but a carefully crafted approach to behavior modification.

“A critical part of it is the data we gather,” said Ellison. “It shows us the time of day these behavior problems occur, where in the school they occur and the specific type of problem we are having.”

Knowledge is power. If the numbers show behavior problems in the restroom, hallway or at recess they know to keep an eye on those locations with specific students.

“Looking at that data has allowed us to find solutions to address those problems,” he explained. “Teachers can then work to prevent behavior problems and maintain a positive learning environment.”

Students are asked to do four things:

• Be respectful.

• Be responsible.

• Be positive.

• Be successful.

The program’s theme is “Roadway Trip to Success” complete with road signs, stop signs and green lights set up around the school.

And Ellison said PBIS is more than slogans and rewards.

“This is a school-wide approach and reaches across grades,” said Ellison. “I have to admit I borrowed this program from our Lower Elementary School. We now have students who have been in this program four years.

“They know the rules and know the rewards for good behavior,” said Ellison. “The rules don’t change from teacher to teacher or even grade to grade. Being consistent is so important when dealing with discipline in the classroom.”

Does PBIS solve all behavior problems? No.

“I am spending a lot of time and looking hard at repeat offenders,” said Ellison. “I look to see if there is an underlying cause at home or something else that might be prompting the behavior problem.

“That goes back to gathering data and looking for solutions,” said Ellison. “When you can identify a high risk student or a student with other problems you can offer them programs that can help them.”

And Ellison said the goal of every teacher at HUES is to help students learn.

“It’s no secret that students who struggle with academics often become behavior problems,” said Ellison. “And students who struggle with behavior issues often have academic problems.”

Again, the goal is to successfully identify the problem and offer a solution tailored to that student.

Ellison said the atmosphere at HUES has changed this school year.

Ellison also said the fact teachers and all employees at HUES have embraced PBIS has made it successful.

The PBIS Core Committee at HUES is made up of: Chairman Kim Sellers, Kinta Atkins, Pearly Carr, Leigh Kimbrough, Ann Landrum, Creedance Randle, Sharon Vance and Rebecca Worthington.

“Our teachers are the ones on the front line and they are the ones who deserve credit for this program being successful,” said Ellison. “They have been the ones who have taken it and made is work. It’s been a team effort and it’s made a difference in our school and the lives of students.”

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