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I.    Introduction:   

Establishing a Need for a School Wide Discipline Plan

During most of its twenty-two year existence, the Annual Gallup Poll of the Public's attitudes toward the Public Schools has identified "lack of discipline" as the most serious problem facing the nation's educational system.

School personnel, students, and parents call attention to the high incidence of related problems in school environments--problems such as drug use, cheating, insubordination, truancy, and intimidation--which result in countless school and classroom disruptions and lead to nearly two million suspensions and expulsions per year.

In addition to these school discipline issues, American classrooms are frequently plagued by other, more minor kinds of misbehavior which disrupt the flow of classroom activities and interfere with learning. Approximately one-half of all classroom time is taken up with activities other than instruction, and discipline problems are responsible for a significant portion of this lost instructional time (Cotton 2004).

Discipline, most simply stated, is the business of teaching and enforcing simple classroom rules that facilitate learning and minimize disruptions. In essence, effective discipline is a time consuming process of slowly, bit-by-bit, helping children understand the importance of acting in a certain way.

For over a quarter of a century, the number one concern facing America's public schools has been discipline. What educators are finding, however, is that the root of the problem goes beyond rule-breaking. Many of today's students need more than just sound and consistent discipline policies; they also need positive behavioral instruction.

Consequently, educators have been seeking new ways to move beyond traditional "punishment" and provide opportunities for all children to learn self-discipline. Simultaneously, researchers have begun to study and advocate for broader, proactive, positive school-wide discipline systems that include behavioral support. One of the most promising and effective avenues for achieving the dual goals of teaching self-discipline and managing behavior is school-wide behavior management.

While there are different variations of school-wide systems of behavioral support, most have certain features in common. The emphasis is on consistency both throughout the building and across classrooms. The entire school staff (including cafeteria workers and bus drivers) is expected to adopt strategies that will be uniformly implemented. As a result, these approaches necessitate professional development and long-term commitment by the school leadership for this innovation to take hold.

II.    Characteristics typically associated with School Wide Discipline Problems

When Johns Hopkins University researchers Gary D. Gottfredson and Denise C. Gottfredson analyzed data from over 600 of the nation's schools, they found that the following school characteristics were associated with discipline problems:

    1.    Rules were unclear or perceived as unfairly or inconsistently enforced;   

    2.    Students did not believe in the rules;

    3.    Teachers and administrators did not know what the rules were or disagreed on the proper responses to student misconduct;

    4.    Teacher-administration cooperation was poor or the administration inactive;

    5.    Teachers tended to have punitive attitudes;

    6.    Misconduct was ignored; 

    7.    Schools were large or lacked adequate resources for teaching.

III.    Components important to the success of a school wide discipline program:

1.    Commitment, on the part of all staff, to establish and maintain appropriate student behavior as an essential precondition of learning. Well-disciplined schools tend to be those in which there is a school wide emphasis on the importance of learning, both academic and behavioral expectations and an intolerance of conditions which inhibit learning.

2.    High behavioral expectations. In contrast to poorly disciplined schools, staff in well-disciplined schools share and communicate high expectations for appropriate student behavior.

3.    Clear and broad-based rules. Rules, sanctions, and procedures are developed with input from students, are clearly specified, and are made known to everyone in the school. Researchers have found that student participation in developing and reviewing school discipline programs creates a sense of ownership and commitment. Widespread dissemination of clearly stated rules and procedures, moreover, assures that all students and staff understand what is and is not acceptable.

4.    Warm school climate. A warm social climate, characterized by a concern for students as individuals, is typical of well-disciplined schools. Teachers and administrators take an interest in the personal goals, achievements, and problems of students and support them in their academic and extracurricular activities.

5.    A visible, supportive principal. Many poorly disciplined schools have principals who are visible only for "official" duties such as assemblies or when enforcing school discipline. In contrast, principals of well-disciplined schools tend to be very visible in hallways and classrooms, talking informally with teachers and students, speaking to them by name, and expressing interest in their activities.

6.    Delegation of discipline authority to teachers. Principals in well-disciplined schools take responsibility for dealing with serious infractions, but they hold teachers responsible for handling routine classroom discipline problems. They assist teachers to improve their classroom management and discipline skills by arranging for staff development activities as needed.

7.    Close ties with communities. Researchers have generally found that school with an effective school wide discipline program will develop a high level of communication and partnership with the communities they serve.These schools will also generate a greater than average incidence of  parent involvement in school functions, and communities are kept informed of school goals and activities.

IV.    Educational Resource Services “Proactive Discipline for Reactive Students” ™   

In school environments which are so fraught with disorder and danger a more broad-based approach to discipline is necessary in order to bring about real improvements in the school environment. In such settings, Educational Resource Services has found the following strategies to be effective:

1.    Organizational development approach. Instructional and discipline programs must often be restructured, resulting in significant improvements in student behavioral and academic outcomes. This can be accomplished by:

    A.    Establishing school teams to carry out improvement projects.

    B.    Curriculum and discipline policy must be reviewed and periodic revisions must be made, with input from all groups within the school, including students.

    C.    Academic innovations such as study skills instruction and cooperative team learning needs to be implemented.

    D.    Climate innovations must be established, such as school pride campaigns and expanded extracurricular activities instituted.

    E.    Career-oriented innovations, such as career exploration programs and job-seeking skills programs, can be added to the curriculum.

    F.    In accordance to IDEA 2004, Response to Intervention (RTI), special interventions, such as counseling and monitoring of improvements, must be provided to targeted students identified as having behavioral and academic problems.

2.    Increasing parent involvement is a critical element in improving order in troubled schools. This can be accomplished even in schools with traditionally low parent involvement.