State recognizes three Princeton schools for behavioral program

Three schools in the Princeton School District are among 16 schools the state is recognizing for excellence in creating positive learning environments for students.
The three Princeton schools are its two elementary schools – South and North – and the middle school. The other 13 schools recognized are in Chaska, Deer River, Maple Lake, Minneapolis, Mounds View, St. Cloud, St. Michael-Albertville, White Bear Lake and United South Central based in Wells.
All of the 16 schools are using a program called positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS). University of Oregon professors Rob Horner, George Sugai and Anne Todd are credited with formulating PBIS in 1994 and first trying it out at a middle school in Eugene, Ore.
Minnesota picked up PBIS in 2005, and the Minnesota Department of Education offered it to nine schools at that time, according to North Elementary Principal John Beach. The Princeton district successfully applied to have Princeton’s two elementary schools and its middle school be among the nine schools to try it in 2005.
The basic framework of PBIS, according to Beach, is to establish a universal set of expectations for all the students and staff in a school. “It’s building relationships among students, staff and the community,” he said.
Beach noted that PBIS has two tiers beyond the setting of general expectations. The other two tiers give more individualized interventions for those whom the typical set of expectations are not working, Beach said. Some need a little more intervention and still others need even more, and in those two tiers, PBIS becomes more individualized, Beach explained. An example of individualized intervention is assigning someone to mentor the student and check up on the student multiple times during the day, Beach said.
Websites on PBIS, including one from Charlotte, N.C., state that a key part of PBIS is prevention.
Beach and Princeton Middle School Principal Dan Voce explained how their schools reward students whose behavior a staff member sees as especially modeling positive behaviors.
The middle school uses a coupon approach, in which a staff member hands a student a coupon with the student’s name on it as a reward for the student’s particular positive behavior. The coupon could be used for a perk, like going to the front of a lunch line, or if enough coupons are acquired, can be used to purchase a backpack or something else on a cart of reward items assembled for the PBIS program, Voce said.
At North Elementary, the vehicle to getting rewards is to collect pieces of paper called Tiger Paws. If the students schoolwide earn a total of 3,000 Tiger Paws in a year, the school will add one more event to the school’s annual carnival.
Students can individually use their Tiger Paws to receive rewards like five minutes of extra recess, a fancy pencil or school supplies, Beach explained.
The effect of adopting PBIS is that it has reduced undesirable behaviors by 50 percent since the program’s beginning, Beach said. That leaves more time for classroom instruction versus students being out of the classroom because of trouble, Beach added.
The state department of education calls the 16 recognized schools “Sustaining Exemplar Schools for being leaders in establishing a comprehensive set of practices to support positive behavior, improve school climate and increase student achievement.”
Beach, noting the differences between PBIS and the old traditional way of just using punishment, said “its easy just to have consequences,” but the support system is more beneficial.
The Tiger Paws that Beach talked about fits with the school district’s Tiger Pride program of expectations. The district’s mascot is the tiger, and the Tiger Pride theme focuses on showing respect for self, others, the schools and the community.
Princeton District PBIS Coach Erin Heine Engness told Princeton Interim Superintendent Julia Espe last week that the state’s recognition of the three Princeton schools for their PBIS work is well deserved. Engness said the “teams, staff and students all work hard to show their tiger pride, which in turn gives us safer and more successful schools.”