Polk County Public Schools staff presented an update on the School Discipline and Student Behavior Response Plan during Tuesday’s School Board meeting, explaining how a formalized reporting and tracking protocol is providing enhanced support to students and school-based staff.
“We listened to our stakeholders — school-based administrators, teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals — and they all expressed that they need our help with behavioral issues at the school level,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.
“We built the School Discipline and Student Behavior Response Plan to address their concerns. I’m proud of the work we’ve done together in the first half of the year. Together, we are improving learning and working conditions in our school district.”
The School Discipline and Student Behavior Response Plan was implemented at the start of the 2019-20 school year. A key element of the plan was the development of a protocol for reporting behavioral issues and requesting assistance from district staff members.
Today, when a school-based administrator calls for behavioral support, they initiate a standardized sequence of events: One of the district’s five school behavior response teams responds and works collaboratively with the school to assess the behavioral issue, develops a plan for addressing the situation, and then implements and monitors the plan. The district aims for a team to respond to the school within 24 hours and for a plan to be developed within a week of a call being received.
The district’s behavior response teams include a board-certified behavior analyst, behavior specialist, mental health facilitator, positive behavioral intervention and support facilitators, school psychologist, school social worker, academic behavior support teacher, and registered behavior technician.
So far this year, the district has received nearly 150 calls from schools for assistance.
Every request from schools and every support that is delivered is now being tracked by the district, and that data is being used to further improve the assistance delivered to schools. Data shows that in the first half of the 2019-20 school year, students in grades kindergarten, first and second accounted for 46 percent of the approximately 150 calls from schools.
Based on that finding, Chief Academic Officer Michael Akes said the district is beginning to “look upstream” at pre-kindergarten students.
“We have to look at what our students are doing in pre-kindergarten and how we can help them be successful,” Akes said. “That will mean ensuring our students have their social and emotional needs met in pre-kindergarten, that we have the proper structures in place and that we’re teaching the appropriate social behaviors prior to them entering kindergarten.”
Data shows that the behavioral cases reported this year also frequently involve students with disabilities. District staff are using those findings to identify additional options for support and resources for schools.
“The work our district is doing to support our students with disabilities exhibiting intensive behaviors serves as further proof of the dedicated effort PCPS has to ensure our students are provided the tools they require to be successful in school,” said Kim Steinke, the district’s assistant superintendent of learning support and exceptional student education. “Reinforcing our teachers, paraprofessionals, school leaders, and parents to support those students through assistance from behavior specialists is the critical piece we’ve been able to build through the plan this year.”
In addition, as part of the School Discipline and Student Behavior Response Plan, the district provided behavioral training to more than 400 teachers and school and district staff members prior to the 2019-20 school year. Additional intensive behavior units have been created for students exhibiting the most difficult behaviors.
Looking ahead, in addition to using behavioral data to strategically identify and implement supports, the district plans to continue adding professional development opportunities for school-based staff. In particular, the district is planning side-by-side coaching for teachers of students with disabilities, and training for paraprofessionals.
“Since the very beginning, we’ve had very clear objectives in mind: reducing highly disruptive behaviors, reinforcing positive behaviors, providing a full continuum of supports for our schools, and most important, providing a safe and caring school experience,” said Deputy Superintendent John Hill during Tuesday’s presentation.
“What we’ve done in the first half of this school year is move from theory to practice by implementing a systematic, comprehensive plan that addresses the social and emotional learning needs of our students, and provides supports for teachers and school-based personnel. There is more of this very important work to come.”