KNIGHTDALE — While community members have just begun to discuss how to improve Knightdale schools, East Wake Middle School is already taking its own steps to improve their own school climate and ultimately, they hope, student achievement.
East Wake Middle School was recognized as a Positive Behavior and Intervention Support school, the first time the school has earned such recognition.
The PBIS program requires participating schools to come up with ways to reward good behavior to offset the effects of disruptive behaviors.
“(PBIS is) important because we don’t want our behaviors to impede instruction and impede learning,” said East Wake Middle assistant principal Brady Kocher, who oversees the PBIS program at the school.
Green-ribbon schools are the first tier of recognition from PBIS. To earn it, the PBIS team completes specific training sessions and begins implementing a PBIS plan.
“We applied for recognition because I feel like what we’re doing at East Wake Middle School is making a difference with behavior,” Kocher said. “Teachers don’t have to worry about the negative behaviors. There’s so much positive in the classroom they can focus on instruction.”
East Wake Middle School focuses its PBIS initiative on the acronym PRIDE, which stands for punctual, respect, integrity, determination and excellence.
Faculty and staff have special PRIDE tickets given to students demonstrating PRIDE traits. The students can redeem those tickets for rewards like special PRIDE events or at the school’s PRIDE store.
“It’s just a way to build motivation in the class without having to bribe them,” Kocher said. P.E. teachers at the school have donated their planning time to hold events for older students to come to the gym and be with their friends during the school day. Students can use PRIDE tickets for entry into athletic events.
Eighth-graders can redeem the tickets for a special V.I.P. section at lunch for them and friends to sit and use their electronics. Sixth graders recently had a PRIDE event where they could eat lunch outside.
Kocher said younger students, like sixth graders, tend to enjoy the store more than the events. The store was initially stocked through a grant the school received last year, and Kocher said some teachers donate items to the store. The store gets more popular around the holidays for all grade levels because students like to buy gifts there, Kocher said.
School officials are planning to reapply for the grant that initially funded the store so they can restock it.
Academics improve also
PBIS is meant to help schools address behavioral problems within a school, something that has plagued East Wake Middle School for some time.
“Was (East Wake) bad before? People do talk about it, but I can’t speak to it,” said Kocher, who has been at the school for five years. “I know it’s getting better.”
Kocher said the number of in-school suspensions has decreased by 70 percent this year at East Wake Middle. As the school moves toward higher recognition with PBIS, it will be required to report more behavioral data to show the effectiveness of its program.
An independent audit of four Knightdale schools released in August mentioned the PBIS program at East Wake as a positive tool to “(moving the) school in the right direction.”
East Wake Middle School made it a goal in the School Improvement Plan to get statewide recognition as a way to measure success with the PBIS program.
Kocher said the school’s next goal is to reach the next tier of recognition as a PBIS Model School. For East Wake, this would mean developing a plan to address the needs of students who may need extra motivation to follow the new behavioral principles.
The school already has a program in place to help those students. Students identified as chronic offenders of rules carry a check-in, check-out list for their teachers. If they meet certain personal goals, such as behaving or participating in class, teachers will check it off.
Every week, students who have met their behavioral goals are recognized with a certificate.
With improved behavior, East Wake Middle has also seen improved academic success. According to principal Nancy Allen, 25 percent of the school’s students made honor roll in the last grading period.
“That just goes to show that our kids are responding to this program,” she said.
The state Department of Public Instruction encourages all schools to participate in PBIS, but it’s not required. Wake County has about 136 participating schools and typically adds two to five schools each year, according to Daniel Haithcox, the Wake County PBIS coach.
In eastern Wake County, Knightdale Elementary School is recognized as a PBIS Model School. Hodge Road and Lockhart elementary schools are recognized as Exemplar Schools, the highest level of PBIS recognition.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews