Turtle Creek Elementary named PBIS School of Merit winner

Comet Code at PhoenixDELAVAN — Turtle Creek Elementary School in the Delavan-Darien School District has been named a School of Merit by the Wisconsin RtI Center (Response to Intervention) for its work on implementing the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) behavior education system.

At the school and throughout the district, PBIS is known as “The Comet Code.” The code is the set of rules and expectations for all students in all areas of our buildings and campuses. It calls for everyone to “Be Respectful,” “Be Responsible,” “Be Safe” and “Be a Learner” at all times.

PBIS is a proactive approach that establishes safer and more effective schools not only in Delavan-Darien, but throughout the country.

Turtle Creek started the PBIS implementation process in the fall. It was one of 165 schools statewide recognized as a School of Merit in the 2014-15 school year, according to the award letter from Carolyn Stanford Taylor, assistant state superintendent in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Division for Learning Support.

Beth Fossler

Beth Fossler

“It’s very exciting to learn we’ve received this award,” said Turtle Creek Third Grade Teacher Beth Fossler, the school’s internal coach for PBIS implementation. “I am proud of the hard work and dedication of not only the PBIS team, but also the whole staff and all of our students. They’ve been following our Comet Code and all of the expectations that we have here.”

“I am extremely proud of the PBIS team for all of their work and dedication,” Turtle Creek Principal Rebecca Zahn said. “The results of their work are reflected in the data in that student behaviors have improved. Staff have been able to target students who need more behavioral support and work effectively with those students. That has increased the students’ time-on-task in the classroom so they are able to achieve more.”

Phoenix Middle School received a PBIS School of Merit award in the 2012-13 school year.

Delavan-Darien High School first piloted PBIS and The Comet Code in the 2010-11 school year. The program has since grown to all five of the district’s schools.

DDHS, along with Darien and Wileman elementary schools, will likely apply for the award next year, said Dr. Sara Halberg, Delavan-Darien’s director of pupil services.

As a result of The Comet Code being in all Delavan-Darien schools, the district has seen improved student behaviors and reduced office visits, Halberg said.

Staff frequently reviews student data and identify behavior concerns and areas where re-teaching is needed. School counselors and psychologists are involved in developing behavior plans for students who are more frequently in the office.

Fossler said having a daily calendar of teaching expectations and behaviors went a long way in helping the school improve. Daily, students and staff were “on the same page” in learning about different expectations at the school.

By in large, Turtle Creek students have also bought into the Comet Cash reward system. When students are “caught” doing something positive, they were rewarded with Comet Cash, which could be used to buy items (posters, gift cards, pencils, etc.), or special privileges such as having lunch with a teacher, reading to another classroom or having special show-and-tell days. The Comet Cash can also be used in drawings for bigger raffle prizes.

“The transformation our school has gone through is remarkable,” Fossler said. “Students have a sense of belonging due to the universal behavior expectations and acknowledgement system implemented this year. The years prior, the students and teachers did not have a common understanding on school wide expectations. They do now.”

Fossler said in addition to behavior improvements, the school attendance rates have gone up, the school culture has improved and teachers are more receptive to acknowledging and encouraging both good academics and good behavior. Beyond that, parent involvement in school activities has also increased, Fossler said.

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