DELAVAN — The Wisconsin PBIS Network (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) has recognized Phoenix Middle School as a “School of Merit” for implementing a high-quality, school-wide student behavioral program.
PBIS, or “The Comet Code” as it is known at Phoenix, is a proactive approach that establishes safer and more effective schools throughout the country. It is currently being implemented by about 47 percent of schools in the state and Phoenix was one of 146 schools recognized as a School of Merit for the 2012-13 school year, according to a congratulatory letter from Carolyn Stanford Taylor, assistant state superintendent in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Division for Learning Support.
Schools were recognized as Schools of Merit based on an application process, which included team and meeting information, implementation and outcome data, as well as narrative questions and answers that described the data, systems, and practices of PBIS implementation within the school.
The Comet Code, implemented fully at Phoenix this school year — it was rolled out in the midst of the 2011-12 school year — is the “mantra” by which students and staff live daily.
The Comet Code defines a set of expectations for all people in the building — from students, to teachers, classroom aides, visitors and principals — and all areas of the building — classrooms, the hallways, cafeteria, playground, bus loading zone, and more. It calls for everyone to “Be Respectful,” “Be Responsible,” “Be Safe” and “Be a Learner” at all times, and reinforces those ideas through positive reinforcement, including rewards.
The code helps ensure the Phoenix Middle School environment is an appropriate place for everyone to learn to his or her maximum potential. Students are often rewarded and recognized for displaying positive behavior and following the rules, so they’re not just receiving reminders or reprimands when rules are broken.
Discipline data that must be reported to the state shows the code is helping improve the learning environment at Phoenix.
Since 2009-10, the number of major behavioral issues resulting in student suspensions fell by more than half. Minor offenses since 2009-10 have fallen by more than 70 percent.
In the 2009-10 school year, there were 3,018 minor discipline offenses, resulting in a detention or other teacher-assigned consequence, and 348 major offenses that resulted in an in-school or out-of-school suspension.
In 2010-11, there were 2,029 minor offenses and 286 major offenses at Phoenix. By 2011-12, the numbers fell to 843 minor referrals and 202 major referrals. This past school year, minor offenses remained consistent at 844, while major offenses continued to fall to 158.
Associate Principal Charles Tollefsen said the data shows that students are in the office less and in the classrooms more, where learning can occur. That’s a good thing.
“The school atmosphere is a lot more positive now,” said Associate Principal Charles Tollefsen. “As far as major behaviors go, which often result in classroom disruptions and missed classroom time for students, they have been reduced significantly.”
Tollefsen said he also sees fewer and few of the most serious offenses.
“With middle school students, they’ll always have impulsive behaviors because of their age, but as far as major negative behaviors, such as fights, possessing drugs or alcohol, or being involved in gang activities, those are down to near zero offenses,” he said, noting that the random locker and backpack searches by the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department Drug and K-9 Units resulted in no drugs or weapons being found.
Additionally, gang activity by studens that may go on in the community has been absent from school, which helps create a safer climate, Tollefsen said.
“With the work our staff has done with School Resource Officer David Markely, we really don’t see a lot of gang issues in our school,” Tollfesen said. “Graffiti-wise, we’ve haven’t had any gang-related graffiti in our school this entire year. We didn’t have a single gang-related fight this last year or the year before. So as far as the perceptions that there is a gang problem here, we really don’t have them here.
“We don’t have a lot of kids who openly associate themselves with gangs inside of our school. Outside, maybe some do because of the environment they live in. But inside Phoenix Middle School, we simply don’t see it.”
About the award
Wisconsin PBIS Network Schools of Merit show the following characteristics:
- Have staff who have been trained by Wisconsin PBIS Network approved trainers
- Have staff who have been trained in PBIS at tier 1
- Have demonstrated fidelity on the Benchmarks of Quality (70 percent or higher)
- Have school leadership teams that meet regularly
- Have active coaching and administrative leadership
- Have taught students and staff school-wide expectations
- Actively use fidelity data to improve implementation efforts
- Actively use student outcome data (Big 5) to problem solve
As a Merit Award winner, Phoenix Middle School will receive a school banner, a letter of congratulations and recognition at the 2013 Wisconsin PBIS Network Summer Leadership Conference.
For more information about the Wisconsin PBIS Network, visit: http://www.wisconsinpbisnetwork.org/.