Immaculate Conception Catholic School has earned Missouri Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support Gold level recognition after 11 years of implementing positive behavior support in the school.
“It’s definitely an acknowledgment of all the hard work and dedication of the school community to get to this point in the process,” said Immaculate Conception Director Heather Schrimpf.
Schrimpf arrived at the Immaculate Conception in 2008 as assistant principal and found she was seeing students in her office for all sorts of misconduct.
“It just seemed like there was no rhyme or reason for what was considered a major violation, a dismissal from the office, or a minor violation,” she said. “And I sort of put it down to a revolving door. I would see kids for minor disruptions in the classroom with serious, more serious consequences, so to speak, whereas a lot of it, I thought, could be managed in class.
“I think the teachers, without any clear direction, didn’t feel like they had the power to make decisions in the classroom about how to handle the behavior, so there really wasn’t a set standard for do things. And then also, not really clear- up to our expectations.”
Expectations varied from class to class and grade to grade.
“So we decided we needed to make a change and get everyone on the same page when it came to our expectations for behavior and the disciplinary process,” she said.
Immaculate Conception brought together a team of teachers from different grade levels to observe and research the methods of other schools.
Schrimpf said the team visited Thorpe Gordon Primary School and were impressed with the flexibility of the positive behavior support program, which they believe could work well at their school. Unlike public schools which are divided into early childhood, elementary, middle and high schools, the Immaculate Conception sees kindergarten through eighth grade under one roof, so the school needed a program that could apply to all ages.
Recognition for Positive Behavior Support Programs comes in three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Over time, the Immaculate Conception progressed through all three.
At the bronze level, schools implement “level one” steps, which involve setting expectations and rewards for good behavior.
At the Immaculate Conception, students are expected to follow “HALO”: to have responsibilities, to act safely, to live like Christ, and to offer respect.
During the first week of school, teachers review all expectations with their students. When students complete the expectations, they receive a HALO ticket, which can be flipped to receive an incentive. Rewards vary, and students help decide what rewards will be at the classroom and school level.
The incentives kids want vary from casual or funky dress days, snack shacks where they can buy ice cream and candy with their lunch, extra playtime, bouncy houses, or dance parties with a DJ.
Local parishioners have been supportive, often volunteering to serve as guardians or sponsor rewards like bouncy houses.
The program seems to have others as well.
Before adopting the program, 80% of teachers had to be in favor because it would take a lot of work to set it up and make it work, and parents are also in favor, Schrimpf said.
Recognizing positive behavior attracts students who misbehave because students want a positive relationship with their teacher.
Positive behavior support in the classroom involves recognizing good behavior and redirecting bad behavior. When students misbehave, they can be sent to a safe place in the classroom to reflect on their behavior. A teacher will then follow up with the student to discuss what needs to change and re-teach expectations. Schrimpf said there are infractions that will warrant immediate referral or removal from class, and there are still consequences for misbehavior.
Level 2 is about reviewing data and working with parents to help students with behavioral challenges get back on track.
Every two weeks, a team will meet to discuss behavioral issues, talk with teachers, and make a decision on what action to take to resolve an issue. This could mean the student checking in with teachers, working with a social skills group, or meeting with a tutor. The team also checks other factors such as attendance and visits to health wards in case these are related.
At Level 3, the focus is on helping students who need outside help such as counseling or a pediatrician. This involves meeting with the parents and making a plan for their student.
The Immaculate Conception is also believed to be the first private school to achieve gold level in the state, although other private schools are beginning to implement the program.
While many schools implementing the program are public schools, Schrimpf said adjusting to a Catholic mission wasn’t difficult.
“The Golden Rule stems from the Bible, and so, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ the whole philosophy behind the program,” works well with the purpose of Catholic education, said said Schrimpf.
The underlying moral and ethical goals of the expectations align well with the school’s values, Schrimpf said.
This means encouraging students to treat others well and care for creation.
Over the years, Schrimpf said, the school has seen results.
“Has there been a big change in behavior? Maybe that very first year, but over the years we’ve seen a gradual decrease in serious problem behaviors, and on the contrary, it’s definitely created a positive culture among students and staff,” she said. .