This year, 74% of Fair Street's total discipline referrals were from African American (A.A.) students, though they make up only 36% of our school population. Additionally, 50% of our discipline referrals are bus referrals, and 40% of them are from A.A. students. Due to this gap in the distribution of our discipline referrals, the activities completed this year such as Small Group Counseling, use of Second Step Skills for Academic and Social Success in the classroom and small group, Bully Proofing lessons, classroom meetings to problem solve interpersonal problems, and PBIS implementation were implemented in hopes that they would positively affect this gap.
According to the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) - A First Look - there are "gaps that still remain too wide in key areas affecting educational equity and opportunity". Incidents of discipline referrals is one of these key areas. The Committee for Children, creators of Second Step Skills for Academic and Social Success, base their programs on current research in the field. These programs help children improve their social-emotional competence and behavior for children who started the school year with skill deficits relative to their peers. The National Institute of Justice lists Second Step as an effective violence prevention curriculum based on multiple research studies (2012).
In the 2014-2015 school year, the total discipline referrals in our school decreased by 45%, and the A.A. discipline referrals decreased by 40%. It seems unrealistic that in one year, A.A. students' behavior escalated so badly that there was a 60% increase in discipline referrals, or even that there was a 60% increase in total discipline referrals, as our data showed us. Rather, as was discussed in the School Counseling Advisory Board Meeting in the Spring, it very well could be a result of integrity in reporting discipline referrals. With the system wide implementation of PBIS this year, an emphasis was made during team and staff trainings for each school to document discipline referrals in the same manner. As has been mentioned earlier in this application, some teachers told this counselor that last year they had given up on reporting discipline referrals due to fear of being seen as not able to manage their classrooms, and due to their perceptions that there were no consequences for bad behavior. With the beginning of staff training, and the work we did together in creating behavior and referral flowcharts, teachers and other staff began to document referrals more often.
Next steps will include continuing the use of Second Step in small groups, though making sure I have groups that also meet other varied needs. One thought is to conduct groups using the concept of Mindfulness, which has been shown to decrease stress. This could possibly be helpful for students who react out of stress and anxiety, rather than stop and think and choose how to act. The Bully Proofing Curriculum, along with classroom meetings and teacher taught Second Step will be continued. Classroom meetings have been shown to increase a student's bonding to school. More consistent monitoring of teacher taught Second Step and teacher held classroom meetings could help reinforce what the students are learning in small groups. Based on past (2005-2006) experiences with teachers, the teaching of Second Step is a challenge for them to fit into their weekly schedules. If monitored more consistently, and possibly given positive incentives, implementation may be more complete. Additionally, having parent sessions to inform them what their students are learning through Second Step could possibly help them reinforce these skills in their children.
Results from the Small Group Counseling perception survey indicated most students believed they had improved their behavior, peer relationships, and bonding to school (see attached graph). Teachers' perceptions on the improvement of these three components were somewhat different. Some recent research has indicated that due to classroom stress and teacher perception of their students' misbehavior, feedback from teachers on behavior report cards for their students differ significantly from the counselor, parent, and student perception. The belief is that over time, teachers tire of the misbehavior and find it very difficult to see the small increments of improvement in their students' behavior. Though not all the students in small group were "African American, the majority were. Hopefully, implementing all the above efforts in closing the gap for our African American students will make a difference over time.