BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — Fairfield third-grader Jaxon Crossen was more than happy to scurry under his desk and make silly faces at his teacher.
That’s because his teacher, Jenny Justen, was also under her desk making silly faces right back at him – along with the rest of the class.
The exercise was not just a time for goofy antics; it was part of a reward system for good behavior through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program (PBIS). Since Fairfield students took extra care in following the good behaviors expected of them, such as using quiet voices, they were rewarded with an opportunity to act silly under their desks.
“They love it,” said Fairfield principal Michele Loboschefski. “They can do these crazy things for a minute and then they stop and go back to learning.”
Every school in the district utilizes some type of systematic program centered on teaching acceptable behavior as part of the PBIS initiative. Teams of teachers, parents and administrators are designated from each building to then review data and assess progress.
For their efforts with the PBIS initiatives, both Fairfield and Wayne Trail Elementary received the Ohio Department of Education tier-one bronze award for the 2020-21 school year. It is the second consecutive year that Fairfield has received the award, as the school was also a recipient for the 2019-20 school year. The tier-one designation means that the program is building-wide
Fairfield utilizes PAX to implement the program, which is a good-behavior game that stands for peace, productivity, health and happiness. It is part of a classroom management system that all Fairfield teachers use to teach children how to follow rules and manage emotions. The PAX program is based on three main expectations, which are safety, responsibility and respect. When students adhere to the good behavior, they get a reward – like the chance to act silly.
“We are teaching kids how to behave,” explained counselor Amy Johnson. “We teach the kids what that looks like in every area of the building – while they are walking in the hallways, eating in the lunchroom or playing on the playground.”
Implementing the program begins with evaluating discipline issues to determine areas that need to be addressed in order to implement strategies to correct that behavior. For example, if there are a number of students written up for discipline problems on the playground, a team of educators will review the data to determine an intervention protocol.
“You want to put in those universal supports to help all students because you are trying to reduce those discipline problems and increase the pro-social behaviors,” Johnson said.
Loboschefski said that the program helps to promote the overall educational process.
“Research has shown that when you lessen (negative) behaviors, more learning happens – that is why it is so important,” she said.
PBIS has been implemented into Fairfield’s curriculum for almost 10 years, and both Johnson and Loboschefski say that it has had a significant impact on reducing disciplinary problems.
“We really have evolved,” Loboschefski said, noting that nine years ago, there were over 400 disciplinary write-ups per year.
“In the last two years, there are maybe 50,” she said.
According to Johnson, research indicates that punishment alone – without an opportunity to teach coping skills – will simply lead to more problems.
“Using this, you are teaching children how to deal with situations and conflict, and that is a lifelong lesson,” she said.
Wayne Trail Elementary implements the Dojo program to support the PBIS initiative. Dojo means “peace of mind,” according to Wayne Trail Elementary counselor Ryan Osier. The program has been in place for three years, and Osier compares it to a grading scale for school subjects; however, instead of earning letter grades for completing schoolwork, students earn points or gold coins for good behavior. When enough coins are earned, the class enjoys extended time with the Lu, an interactive projector game in the school’s gym.
“We want to reward our kids who are following the rules and doing everything we ask of them,” he said.
Wayne Trail’s PBIS program focuses on the five R’s, which are respect, responsibility, resolving conflict, being ready to learn and reaching above and beyond.
Parents can also download the Dojo app, which allows them to track their child’s progress and receive daily updates. Over 95 percent of the student body is hitting the marks when it comes to good behavior and intervention programs help struggling students, Osier said.
“This also helps us to identify much quicker those kids with issues, so we can correct those mistakes at a much earlier rate,” he said.
In addition to good behavior, all of the elementary buildings also focus on social and emotional learning, Osier said.
Tricia Samuel, district director of educational services, said the program is a data-driven approach to improving the school environment.
“This provides a framework and structure to identify areas of need so that we are able to strategically figure out what students may need,” she said.
PBIS is not new; however, in the last several years, it has become a more targeted area of interest. In the past year, the state has required the implementation of PBIS programming in schools.
“If kids don’t know their expectations, then we can’t expect them to meet our expectations,” Samuel said.