Step 8 Managing and improving the process
Behavior Manager collects a wealth of data both about the school and about individual students. Take advantage of the data by reviewing your key behavior metrics regularly. Make and execute plans to improve your behavior metrics on a continuing basis. Celebrate your successes with students, parents and staff. Encourage students, parents and staff to take pride in the ever-improving school culture of achievement.
Systems enable flexibility
We define procedures in classrooms to make things go smoothly. The same applies to the process for managing consequences. The difference is that the process for managing consequences is a lot more complex than the classroom procedure for passing out papers or putting dictionaries away.
Using online systems to support the process of managing consequences offers teachers more flexibility than they had before. In the days of paper office referrals, there were two possibilities. You could either make up consequences or you could create simple rules to follow. Most schools, in the spirit of ease and fairness opted for the latter. That's where policies come from like first offense, warning, second offence, detention, third offense, extra school, fourth offense, ISS, fifth offense, OSS. That's problematic because consequences that are punishments like these tend to be ineffective for improving long term behavior. Students would often march right up the ladder of escalating consequences until they were suspended. And once suspended, they are missing more instruction time, falling further behind in their classes and becoming more likely to drop out of school.
Some administrations advocate policies of strict sequences of escalating consequences, arguing that by making the sequence mechanical, they are treating everyone the same. It's important to be fair and equitable. However, another approach, and one that is likely to be more effective, is to treat everyone the same: with dignity and respect. This approach gives greater flexibility to teachers and administrators to exercise their judgement about what would be most effective for the student. Does that open the school to the possibility of bias? Yes, that's possible, but with the much improved access to data, queries and trends available through online systems, we can readily detect and track down staff who are using their flexibility to not treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Key: Use the flexibility of online systems to increase effectiveness.
It's better to have more flexibility. But flexibility means more complexity. Enter the online systems to handle complexity easily.
Here's a simple example. Minor misbehaviors can result in an after school detention. But if that after school detention has to be served on Tuesday, it could be a problem for the student and his parent if the parent is counting on the student to be home right after school on Tuesday to take care of his sister. So, make it more flexible. Allow the student to serve the detention any day but it must be served within a week. That way the student can choose an afternoon when he's free or, if arrangements must be made for the little sister, there would be time to set it up. It's more complex but it's no problem in Behavior Manager because the detention roll is generated automatically and the system keeps track of whether the student has complied with the deadline.
This same system also allows more flexibility on the number of after school detentions assigned. Since the system is keeping track, administrators now have the flexibility of assigning four or five after school detentions instead of one day of ISS. The system will keep track and the student doesn't miss any class time.
Assembling the context for assigning consequences
Assigning an intervention is an important act. In many cases, one would like to take relevant information into account. What are the details of this incident? How many office referrals has this student had this year? How many this grading period? What interventions have been tried so far? Do they seem to be effective? What is the general policy for dealing with this behavior? For some behaviors, the state imposes consequences. Does that apply in this case? What consequence will I choose? Does it interfere with any pending consequences that have already been imposed but have not yet been satisfied?
A lot of issues can be considered when assigning a consequence. And there are many types of consequences that might be applied. In addition to considering the details of the student's behavior history, the administrator may wish to discuss it with the student. After all, it's the student's problem, not the administrator's. Perhaps the student should figure out how to solve it. That's possible because of the wide range of options available to the administrator.
An important benefit of involving the student in solving the problem is that he makes the problem and the solution (intervention) his own. By making the problem his own, the student is correcting his own behavior rather than having a penalty imposed on him. Taking responsibility for the behavior and its consequences makes it more likely that the student will also take responsibility for his behavior in the future.
Data behind the scenes
When the administrator assigns a consequence, a number of things happen behind the scenes. Rolls, such as the detention roll, are updated. The referring teacher is notified that an intervention has been assigned. The incident and consequence automatically become part of the student's behavior history and are incorporated into behavior dashboards and database queries. If it is an out-of-placement consequence, emails are sent to the student's teachers requesting assignments for the student to work on while he will be out of class. Parents are notified and the notification is added to the parent contacts database.
All of this data keeps teachers and parents informed. And it makes data available immediately allowing data-based decision making so people have immediate information on status and trends. And that feeds into the opportunities for continuous improvement which will improve student behavior and student achievement over time.
Collaborating with parents
Parent involvement is highly correlated to student achievement. It's important to get parents on your side. Just as with students, the best approach to building an effective relationship with parents is to be proactive. Start as early as possible and communicate expectations and rules. As with the students, keep it brief, 3 â€“ 5 expectations that are most important to get across. Let the parents know how things will be working in the class and how the parents can be most helpful. Let them know about the cool things that the class will be doing. If the parents are excited about what's coming up in the class, it's likely they will transfer that enthusiasm to the student. Also be thinking about how to deliver a positive message about each student to the parents as early in the school year as possible.
You and the parents have one important thing in common: you both want what's best for the child. It's as important to know their expectations as it is important for them to know yours. If problems arise with a student, it's helpful to have a relationship with the parents to help resolve them.
Show more on tracking parent communications in Behavior Manager
Behavior histories in Behavior Manager
Another important communication with parents is talking to them about behavior issues. It is important that these discussions be based on facts. Behavior Manager automatically creates a behavior history for each student which includes both information about recognition for positive behavior as well as misbehaviors and consequences. This data is extremely valuable, especially when a parent feels that her son has been unfairly penalized. When detailed facts are presented, those arguments typically evaporate.
Key: Keep in mind that when a student is having behavior issues at school, it is especially important to keep parents notified of things the student is doing well.
The behavior history is also available through the Behavior Manager student and parent portal. They can keep up to date whenever they wish. Also available to parents on the portal is a database of parent tips. The parent tips cover a wide range of parenting issues. If their child is having a specific behavior problem at school, the parent tips may include useful suggestions on what parents can do about it.
Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
Schools and districts often bring in Behavior Manager with the goal of making things quicker and easier. And it does that. Many times, they keep addressing their behavior issues in the same way before Behavior Manager, but now, it's online. Doing that misses a huge opportunity.
Behavior Manager collects and stores a lot of data. The data can be explored in a variety of different ways and it often reveals insights that were unanticipated.
Typically, when people look through the data available in systems like Behavior Manager, they are looking for the good news. What can I show my superintendent that will impress her? What will I show my staff? Showing off the good news feels good. And often that's what the recipient wants to see. But there is something much more powerful to pull from data like this: where are the opportunities for improvement?
Many people are reluctant to look for opportunities for improvement because they think of them as problems and they think problems are bad. But if you're going to do better than you're doing now, it will be because you found a problem and fixed it. Identifying problems is good. Problems are where all the progress comes from. Problems are opportunitiesâ€¦the opportunities for improvement.
Finding opportunities for improvement is only half the job. The other half is finding and implementing the improvement.
Show more on exploring data in Behavior Manager
Building a culture of continuous improvement
The most important shift is to develop the mindset that our goal is to always be improving. Improving what? Improving everything. And the fundamental metric to improve is student achievement.
Key: Be better than we were yesterday!
In order to improve the school, involve everyone with making improvements all the time. Make a common question be, how are we better today than we were yesterday? From lots of small improvements come big changes.
If a cynic answers, we're not better today than yesterday, then ask about last week or last month. Pretty soon even the most resistant among us must admit that stagnation is not a winning strategy.
Keep in mind that not every experiment will work. Some attempts at improvement will fail. But it's still a form of progress to keep trying. Remember Thomas Edison's response when asked if he had failed to make a practical light bulb:
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
-- Thomas Edison
Most improvements will be small. You might notice that when students pass papers to the person behind them that there tend to be little disruptions. One student just throws the papers over his head. Another jams the papers into the face of the person behind. You could reprimand or it may be better to change the paper passing procedure to pass papers to the right instead of to the back. If that procedure change helps, make it stick. The aggregation of many small procedure changes results in big behavior changes.
Encourage teachers to share their procedure improvements. A useful new procedure in one class is likely to be useful in others.
Show more on using data for insignts into common issues
How to create and track improvements with Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles in Behavior Manager
It is best to think of improvement as a repeating process. It's not just one-and-done, but each improvement is built upon previous improvements and provides opportunity for further improvements.
Also, improvement should be based on the scientific method. We should be specific about what we intend to change and what measureable effects are expected. After we try it, measure the results. Did we see the measured improvement that was expected? After trying this improvement, what should we do next? Implement the improvement? Try an alternative?
This approach to improvement is captured in the simple Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.
Plan â€“ Assess the current situation and hypothesize how it might be improved. What can we measure before and after that would show improvement?
Do â€“ Do the planned improvement. This is a test so implement it as quickly and easily as possible.
Check â€“ Measure the data captured during the Do phase. Did you see the expected improvement? Why or why not?
Act â€“ If the change was an actual improvement, then incorporate it into your process. If not, decide what to do next. Modify the plan and try again? Abandon this approach?
Behavior Manager includes a tool for documenting improvement opportunities and the PDCA cycles to test and implement them.