Moorhead Public Schools Implement New Behavioral Program

MOORHEAD–When it comes to improving children’s behavior, Moorhead School District officials are positive PBIS works.

At the 847-student S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system lowered the number of major behavioral incidents from 286 last year to 186 as of last week, Principal Anne Moyano said.

National data indicates schools the size of Reinertsen average more than three incidents a day, she said.

Similar results have been seen at Horizon Middle School, Assistant Principal Jacob Scandrett said. Last year, Horizon recorded 850 major incidents. As of a week ago, it had 556 major incidents.

“PBIS gives us data for where incidents are occurring” and what they are, Scandrett said.

That helps in troubleshooting problems, he said.

“It’s a really powerful tool for us,” Scandrett said.

Signs throughout the hallways and classrooms are posted at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead for the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system so that teachers and staff can determine where problems need to be addressed, whether its in the hallways, classrooms, playground or bathrooms. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Signs throughout the hallways and classrooms are posted at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead for the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system so that teachers and staff can determine where problems need to be addressed, whether its in the hallways, classrooms, playground or bathrooms.
Dave Wallis / The Forum

The interventions system is designed to create a positive school climate where expectations are clearly laid out. Teachers and staff are trained to use the same language to communicate those expectations, said Jill Skarvold, who heads Learner Support Services.

Problems are tracked and strategies, such as extra monitoring in hallways or on playgrounds, are implemented to address problems.

Done right, behavior problems go down, reducing the need for punishments, including suspensions, Skarvold said.

PBIS has been credited with helping Minnesota reduce the number of students suspended each year.

Minnesota saw suspensions drop statewide from 62,309 in 2010-11 to 50,361 in 2013-14, a 20.4 percent decline, the state Department of Education reported.

About 25 percent of the state’s districts use PBIS, but they are credited with 62.1 percent of the reduction in suspensions, the Education Department reports.

Horizon was Moorhead’s first school to go through the two-year intervention training process. It was followed by Reinertsen, then Ellen Hopkins elementary schools, Skarvold said. Robert Asp Elementary staff have finished the first year of the training, and PBIS training is going on at the Probstfield Center for Education and the Early Learning Center, she said.

In 2009-10, Reinertsen averaged 2.4 disciplinary incidents per day. By 2012-13, there were an average of 2 incidents a day. In 2013-14, that dropped to 1.5 incidents per day, Moyano said.

Teachers start the year teaching students the school’s routines and the behavior expectations. That structure helps no matter if the student is a new American resettled from halfway across the world or just transferred from a nearby school, Moyano said.

“Kids have to learn. They’re learning how to interact with other people. They don’t always know how to do that,” she said. “Just as they learn how to read, they come to school to learn how to interact with other people. We teach those skills, just like we teach them to add and subtract.”

Signs throughout the hallways and classrooms are posted at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead for the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system so that teachers and staff can determine where problems need to be addressed, whether its in the hallways, classrooms, playground or bathrooms. Dave Wallis / The Forum
Signs throughout the hallways and classrooms are posted at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead for the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system so that teachers and staff can determine where problems need to be addressed, whether its in the hallways, classrooms, playground or bathrooms.
Dave Wallis / The Forum

With positive reinforcement, students thrive in the PBIS framework, Moyano said.

“That’s when you have success,” she said.

At Horizon, the focus is also on the positive, Scandrett said.

“Spuddy” cards are handed out to students when they’re seen doing good work, he said.

Every one of the 1,275 students gets a postcard during the school year about a positive behavior that’s mailed to their home from a teacher or another adult at Horizon, he said..

Each quarter has a theme.

The year opened with “Creating success in school; getting off to a good start.” It was followed by “Connectedness and relationship development,” “Making a difference” and “Finishing strong; not stopping and pushing forward.to the end,” Scandrett said.

The one-two punch of keeping things positive and tracking incidents has led to the big decline in threats, intimidation, fights and major disruptions or insubordination at Horizon, he said.