The FWSU Story: Fletcher Elementary Named PBIS Exemplar School for Second Year

For the second consecutive year, Fletcher Elementary has earned Exemplar status as a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) School. The designation was awarded by the state level VTPBIS Team of the Vermont Agency of Education and the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion Collaboration at the annual PBIS Forum in Killington on October 10. Fletcher’s PBIS Coordinator and School Counselor, Lisa Coale, accepted the award on behalf of the school.

“We are excited to have the hard work of our students and staff recognized at the Exemplar level again this year,” Coale said. “Creating a respectful, responsible, safe and caring school climate is a priority at Fletcher and the results not only create a more positive environment for all learners, but pave the way for increased academic teaching and learning time, as well.”

Exemplar designation represents the highest of three tiers of PBIS recognition and affirms Fletcher School’s unwavering commitment to supporting a positive school climate. Of the 156 Vermont schools using the PBIS approach, Fletcher was one of only 28 schools that received Exemplar status this year. Slightly more than half of Vermont schools and about one in three schools across the US use the PBIS approach. Fletcher school is in it’s sixth full year of PBIS implementation. 

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an approach to creating proactive, school-wide systems that support students’ behavioral and academic success. It begins with the teaching, modeling, and practicing of school-wide behavior expectations with all students and staff and a formal system of recognition when students meet those expectations and supports when challenges arise. The Fletcher School has created clear and concise behavior expectations for each physical area of the school, on the school buses and for field trips. The school emphasizes respectful, responsible, safe and caring behaviors.These school-wide expectations are modeled and taught to students throughout the year. Individual classroom and school-wide successes are recognized and celebrated regularly. 

The school’s PBIS Team uses data from classroom and office behavior referrals to identify students, locations around the school, times of day, problem behaviors and other demographics needing additional support. Behavior data is provided to families throughout the year as part of parent conferences. 

Students are intermittently recognized when they meet school-wide expectations. The recognition comes in the form of small wooden “falcon” tokens, representing the school mascot. Tokens accumulated in classrooms and other locations around the school result in class and school-wide celebrations.

“Being data-driven is an important part of the PBIS approach,” Coale said. “We track both major and minor behavior referrals and gather information such as the perceived motivation, location, time of day, type of behavior, and more. Using specific information allows us to more precisely target our interventions and supports.”

The school also involves families in the PBIS approach. During Open House, families were given tokens to give to participations whom they spotted meeting the school-wide expectations. The school also sends home tokens before school vacations and encourages families to award them at home, keeping up the momentum of positive behavior across settings and when students are away from school.

Coale has even engaged students in analyzing their own PBIS behavior data. Last year, fourth and fifth graders identified celebrations and challenges in their class-wide behavior, speculated on the root causes, and suggested solutions.

In 2014, the Fletcher School was designated a Vermont PBIS School of Recognition based on its strategic use of data to support student behavior, celebrating school-wide and individual successes and working to support behavioral challenges, as well as noted decrease in behavior issues overall. In the following three years, the school received the PBIS School of Merit designation based on a continuation of that work, as well as receiving exceptional scores on its state-conducted school-wide evaluation of its PBIS implementation. This year’s Exemplar designation, the second in two years, recognizes both a continued decrease in rule-breaking behaviors and an increase in academic performance and comes following a rigorous selection process that included documenting both improved behaviors and increased academic achievement.

“Fletcher is a ‘go to’ school for model PBIS practices and implementation fidelity. They are truly an Exemplar school, and they should be very proud of the recognition for the work they have done on behalf of their students to ensure safe and responsive learning environments,” FWSU Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said. 

In addition to receiving the Exemplar designation, members of Fletcher’s PBIS Leadership Team presented to schools from around the state on parent engagement and student voice at the annual statewide PBIS Forum. 

“As a classroom teacher, I’ve noticed substantially more positive behaviors since I started using the PBIS approach,” third and fourth grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “Students understand what our schoolwide expectations look and sound like across locations and because of that they just behave more positively and responsibly. The time we have put into modeling and teaching behaviors has given rise to a community that cares about each other.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrations Mark Success for Fletcher Students

Who doesn’t love a great celebration? The observance of a graduation, first job, wedding anniversary or college acceptance, celebrations are a festive and fun way to memorialize the major accomplishments in our lives. They become the “pat on the back” that keeps us motivated to keep up our good work. (After all, isn’t that what we all appreciate about our paychecks?)

Kite1

Students in Fletcher celebrated meeting school-wide behavior expectations last spring with a kite-flying party on the playground.

 

Kite2

The kites were imprinted with the school’s expectations.

 

Celebrations also play an important role in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to student behavior. PBIS utilizes a recognition system based on schools’ school-wide expectations. In Fletcher, those expectations include being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. Throughout the year, teachers and student leaders teach, model and practice what it looks like to follow the expectations across a variety of settings including in the classroom, halls, library and on the busses and field trips, just to name a few.

 

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Two students greet each other at a whole-school celebration in Fletcher. The celebrations typically follow the format of a Morning Meeting and include a greeting, sharing, activity and announcements.

 

When students follow the expectations, they are often recognized for their efforts with a token, often just a small piece of paper with the school mascot or other catchy design, as well as the expectations. These tokens become the accounting – like tally marks – for their class. In Fletcher, teachers use various wall posters to accumulate the tokens. When the class reaches a set number of tokens, they celebrate.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

Even more important than the token, however, is the teacher language that accompanies the recognition. Since we want students to be clear about – and repeat – the positive behavior, it is essential that the adult handing out the token name both the expectation the child met as well as the accompanying behavior.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

The adults at school – both teachers and support staff – also hold themselves accountable for behavior using the same school-wide expectations. Norms for staff have been created that align with the school-wide expectations and the adults assess both themselves and the group again the norms periodically after staff meetings. The results of the self and group assessments are shared with all staff for reflection.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Classroom celebrations need not be lengthy, expensive or disruptive. In fact, celebrations like 10 minutes of special math games or reading a silly story might already be a planned part of the curriculum and don’t require teachers to change their routine or give a tangible reward.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school's trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school’s trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Typically, when classes meet their set goal for earning tokens, they contribute to a larger, school-wide tally that eventually results in a school-wide celebration.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

The PBIS recognition system values all three of these types of celebrations: the individual recognition when a student meets the expectations, reaching the classroom goal and achieving school-wide success. At each level, students are aware of the expectations and understand exactly what they have done and should continue to do.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

Celebrations are are an essential component of PBIS. Within a larger framework of teaching, modeling and practicing accepted behavior, celebrations reinforce students for their hard work and ensure continued behavioral success.

PBIS Creates Positive School Culture in Fletcher

Target –Leadership in a Student-Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Steps – (1) Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources (2) Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community (3) Develop learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

Indicators of Success – (1) Teachers embrace the role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment (2) Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies (3) Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, commonly known as PBIS, is a nationally-recognized approach to supporting the social/emotional and academic successes of all students. Based on a three-tiered model, PBIS schools design a continuum of proactive and reactive supports and interventions for students that promotes a positive school climate and increased access to learning.

 

A Fletcher student plays a game he designed around the PBIS behavior system. Modeled after Monopoly, the game takes students through the steps of positive behavior. (The Principal lost to the student while playing the game!!!)

A Fletcher student plays a game he designed around the PBIS behavior system. Modeled after Monopoly, the game takes students through the steps of positive behavior. (The Principal lost to the student while playing the game!!!)

During tier one implementation, also called the universal level, preventative and proactive school-wide and/or classroom systems for all students and staff are designed and enacted. The universal level includes setting three to five behavioral expectations for the entire school. At Fletcher, these include being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. The universal level also includes procedures for teaching the school-wide expectations, methods for acknowledging positive behavior and discouraging problem behavior, and strategies for keeping track of behavioral data and making data-driven decisions.

Last, spring, under the umbrella of the school-wide expectations, the Fletcher staff created specific behavior guidelines for various student locations including the bus, halls, cafeteria and field trips. Capitalizing on the school’s mascot – the Falcon – Fletcher teachers, lead by PBIS Coordinator and School Counselor Sandi Simmons, decided to use paper feathers with students as recognition when they meet behavioral expectations. When a staff member sees or hears a students following the school-wide expectations, they are given a feather. Those feathers are accompanied by a specific verbal acknowledgement of the behavior that the staff member wants to reinforce. Feathers are accumulated to earn classroom and school-wide celebrations.

Fletcher's PBIS system centers around the falcon mascot. The Vermont Institute of Natural Science recently brought a live falcon (and other birds) to Fletcher as part of a mid-year review of school-wide expectations.

Fletcher’s PBIS system centers around the falcon mascot. The Vermont Institute of Natural Science recently brought a live falcon (and other birds) to Fletcher as part of a mid-year review of school-wide expectations.

When necessary, the universal implementation of PBIS also includes a response to inappropriate behavior. In Fletcher, students are typically reminded and redirected when they begin to experience behavioral challenges. They may then be asked to take a break in a specific location in the classroom. These breaks are brief and part of the everyday routine. They are taught and practiced in a way that avoids humiliation, and serve as an opportunity for students to regain their composure and rejoin the group. If students need more time, they may be asked to take a longer break in a Buddy Classroom. During this time they complete a written reflection on their behavior (with support, if needed) and create a plan to successfully rejoin their class. In some cases, if behavior is unsafe or repetitive, students may be asked to process in the office. In any of these scenarios, the emphasis in on the behavior, not the child. Students are supported in thinking about how their behavior fits into the school’s expectations and how their actions impact others and their own learning. The process is intended to be positive and supportive, rather than punitive and shameful.

Students work in multi-age groups to assemble a falcon puzzle that helps them review school-wide expectations as part of a whole-school assembly in early January.

Students work in multi-age groups to assemble a falcon puzzle that helps them review school-wide expectations as part of a whole-school assembly in early January.

Tier two of PBIS is called secondary or targeted prevention. In addition to receiving all of the supports included in tier one, students who continue to struggle with behavior may find success with the specialized groups or programs available in tier two. They include services such as individual or group counseling with the school counselor, school-based behavior plans and reteaching of expectations, among a multitude of other supports

The third tier of PBIS includes intensive supports that are specialized and individualized for students at high-risk. This tier might include specialized evaluations, individual adult support, specialized teaching and behavior planning.

In early January, Fletcher’s universal implementation of PBIS was assessed, receiving a commendable 98 percent score. In her comments, evaluator Kym Asam complimented students and staff for knowing and understanding the school-wide expectations as well as the recognition system being used.

The falcon puzzle mentioned above.

The falcon puzzle mentioned above.

“I interviewed over 10 staff,” Asam wrote, “And all could not only tell me what the school-wide expectations are but explained how they are implementing them, acknowledging positive student behaviors and noticing the significant positive change in culture for staff and students…The climate of the school was positive and invested in supporting students in being successful. Staff reported being excited about the PBIS framework in that it allows for consistent communication, expectations, and responses to the social and emotional functioning.

Thus far, Fletcher has focused on the universal implementation level, but is gearing up for tier two training in March.

“Our climate has changed to a more positive one,” School Counselor Sandi Simmons said. “PBIS has created a consistent positive approach to behavior for both students and staff.”


Visit the Vermont PBIS website here.