By Farrah Bratcher | Guest Blogger
Farrah Bratcher is the PBIS Coordinator for Lyon Academy, a K-8 campus in St. Louis Public Schools. She uses the data cycle to drive continuous improvement with school culture.
Something was amiss with our school culture. We were a month into school when we began hearing teachers and staff constantly giving directions to students over and over again. It seemed to be a troubling trend growing across the school—with every grade level, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and even during art class—students were not following directions. It felt like a bad case of déjà vu, hearing adults futilely repeating the same directions.
We also noticed a staggering escalation of kids being sent to our Buddy Room. Once a student earns five negative behaviors in Kickboard, a green flag automatically appears next to the student’s name, letting the current teacher know it’s time for a behavior reset. The child then goes to our central space (Buddy Room) for a cool down or reflection activity in order to help him or her turn things around. Seeing such alarming increases in Buddy Room visits after only a month of school, we knew we had to take action. So we turned to our Kickboard data to investigate and validate that these issues were indeed a problem, determine how broadly it reached, and explore the root cause.
First, our administrative team held a meeting to break down our school’s behavior trends using Kickboard’s Culture Analysis tool.
But the analysis of culture data didn’t stop with leadership. We then had our teachers analyze culture data during Culture PLCs. They quickly saw for themselves that the negative behavior that had the most instances was “refusal to follow directions” (a whopping 989!). They also saw that the issue was obviously school-wide, in every grade level and environment across our campus.
The teachers then turned to brainstorming why this behavior was such a problem and gave some great insight.
Our Middle School Team Leader, Anna Cychowski, suggested we revisit or even re-teach the expectations spelled out on our schoolwide behavior matrix. I shared an idea that adult directions not being clearly stated might be part of the issue.
Within our PBIS Team, we took another proactive step.
The team conducted peer observations throughout the school to study how adults used universal language, behavior expectations, positive narration, and clear/concise directions. After the observations, the team compiled the data for each category observed into charts and graphs to provide each grade level a snapshot of the findings. Each team was able to see that the category for clear and concise directions scored extremely low. It was a golden opportunity for staff learning!
At our next monthly staff meeting, our Dean of Students, Dr. Owings, led a schoolwide professional development session centered around classroom management. He specifically targeted the session to the needs our data suggested, giving clear and concise directions. As staff practiced, directions evolved from being vague or easily misinterpreted to much more specific.
Teachers and staff took their learning back to the classrooms and hallways with intentionality.
Their new focus on explicit directions gave our students a better chance to succeed. And the effect on data was impressive! During our next round of data meetings, we discovered a drastic decrease in the behavior “refusal to follow directions” across all grade levels. Students spent less amounts of time in the Buddy Room and were able to stay in class to receive high quality instruction.
From this experience we learned it’s vital that we, as school leaders, regularly study and act on data.
It will steer us toward measurable pain points that we can turn into opportunities for professional learning so that little by little, gain by gain, we will make a tremendous difference in student learning.
Lyon Academy teachers exploring culture data, reflecting on practice, and determining actions during a Culture PLC.