ASD hopes new behavior program pilot will reduce discipline issues

ASD hopes new behavior program pilot will reduce discipline issues
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 5:20 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Like many school districts around the country, the Anchorage School District reported an uptick in behavioral issues when students returned to the classroom after an extended period of remote learning due to COVID.

At the time, teachers said it was as if some students had forgotten how to behave in a group setting, while others were experiencing gaps in learning. Now the district is piloting a new program it hopes may help in both areas.

That program is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. Nicole Draper, PBIS supervisor for the district said it is being implemented at 10 district schools this year — including Bartlett High School, Begich and Wendler Middle Schools, the ACT program, Whaley School and Eagle River, Kasuun, Tyson, Lake Hood and Northwood Elementary Schools.

Draper says the PBIS program provides a proactive approach to discipline that seeks to give students and staff the tools they need to avoid many discipline problems. The idea, she said, is to keep students learning in the classroom. It starts with getting the school community to define the behaviors that are most important.

“Our 10 schools that are focusing on PBIS first are identifying what are our school-wide expectations,” Draper said. “And those are three to five values that the school holds, and all the adults know what those are and then also how to teach those to our students.”

At Northwood Elementary, where the program is in place this year, students and staff define their expectations as PAWS — Positive attitude, Act respectfully, Work responsibly, Safe behavior. Principal Elizabeth Hornbuckle said students who exhibit these behaviors earn points and are then recognized at school assemblies.

Hornbuckle said the program is already making a big difference in her school — attendance is up and behavior problems are down.

“It’s just night and day different,” Hornbuckle said. “It feels good, it feels right, that’s what’s happening here at Northwood.”

Draper said implementing the PBIS program requires training and support from the district which is looking to eventually expand the program to all Anchorage schools within the next five years.