Mary Richter Award

Behavioral incentive program leads to student success
Posted on 06/19/2017

The Poplar Bluff School District has recently earned a string of national and state honors for carrying out multiple character-building initiatives in an effort to improve academic performance. 

Eugene Field was named a lighthouse school under the Leader in Me in December; O’Neal and Junior High were selected in April as national showcase schools for Capturing Kids’ Hearts; and on Wednesday, June 14, at Osage Beach, Lake Road became Missouri’s winner of the Dr. Mary Richter Award through the state-wide positive behavior support program. 

“This school exemplifies Mary’s spirit of SW-PBS as a proactive, preventative framework to ensure student success both academically and behaviorally for all students,” SW-PBS consultant Debora Lintner wrote in her nomination letter. Lintner provides training through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for area schools via the Regional Professional Development Center in Cape Girardeau. 

The late Mary Richter was the founding director of the intervention and support system which—according to a press release issued by program administrators—is defined as an evidence-based, proactive approach to teaching and reinforcing expectations in order to improve student behavior, maximize instructional time and increase student engagement.

In addition to receiving the prestigious award for staying the course despite barriers, Lake Road achieved gold level recognition for complete implementation of the program since the elementary school began the process during the 2011/12 academic year.

Over the course of those six years, office discipline went down from 367 to 55 incidents, attendance increased from 80.9 to 91.25 percent, and Missouri Assessment Program scores went up by 46.7 percent in communication arts and 22.2 percent in math. It should be noted that the fourth grade was removed from the elementary configuration last year and became a part of the Middle School. 

“I think anything is possible when you have 100 percent of your staff living the mission, vision, values and goals,” Lake Road Principal Erica Weadon said. “Ultimately it has to deal with kids learning at high levels.”

Students are rewarded for good grades, attendance and behavior at morning celebrations during which expectations are outlined. Points are collected to be cashed in at the monthly Good Habits Store, which is stocked with toys, snacks and other supplies by the Rotary Club and AmeriCorps. Club Day has been instituted in order to provide students opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities such as gymnastics, martial arts and music.

Some of these incentive programs—made possible by community partnerships from respective Bright Futures site councils—have been replicated with success at other schools throughout the district.

Oak Grove received bronze recognition this summer for completing its first year of implementation of tier one SW-PBS, which focuses on developing a common language for teaching specific behaviors or social skills and providing positive reinforcement. The elementary school experienced a decrease in major behavioral referrals, dropping from 562 in 2015/16 to 256 last school year. 

“We changed the way we did business,” Oak Grove Principal Jenifer Richardson stated. “I think it has a positive impact on the building culture not only for office staff and students, but teachers as well because they gain more instructional time by reducing negative behavior.” 

The tier two silver level, which Oak Grove will work toward over the next couple years, provides targeted small group intervention for at-risk students. The third and final tier that Lake Road accomplished and intends on sustaining, is to create a plan involving ongoing dialogue with parents and professionals for students who exhibit intensive and chronic behavioral issues. 

The Middle School is presently entering its preliminary year of data gathering. A team of educators will develop a matrix for campus-wide expectations in various settings such as the cafeteria, restroom and hallways, plus they will establish a reward system. 

“Part of PBS is—Yes, you want to acknowledge good behavior, but you try to instill those behaviors,” Middle School Principal Dr. Brad Ownings said. “A lot of teachers come in at the beginning of the year and go over a set of rules, but don’t hardly ever touch them again until maybe around Christmas. My hope with this is that we’re going to keep teaching those behaviors throughout the year, and they become lifelong skills.”

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Cutline: Displaying Lake Road’s award is (from left) SW-PBS consultant Debbie Lintner; the elementary school’s Sonya Osborn, Katelyn Campa, Erica Weadon, Andrea Reynolds, Candace Hovis and Valerie Duncan; and state coordinator Nanci Johnson.

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