Louisville school enforces new leadership program

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)- Officials at Bullitt Lick Middle School thought instituting a dress code would cut down on student’s behavior problems.

Unfortunately, it did the opposite. Enforcing the dress code proved to be difficult, and it created more problems than it solved said principal Scott Hrebicik.

“We were spending way too much time on the dress code,” said Hrebicik, who estimated that 75 percent of the school’s disciplinary cases came from students breaking the code.

Fed up, the school became one of a growing number of learning institutions who have turned to a program called Positive Behavior Support to get a handle on student behavior.

The program, which is in place at 150 schools across the state, focuses on a schoolwide set of rules and consequences for misbehaving students.

“From the time a child steps foot on the school bus to the time they step off the bus, they know exactly what the expectations are in every situation,” said Mike Waford, director of the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline.

Suspension rates at Bullitt Lick dropped more than 50 percent when officials adopted the program last year. Teacher Matthew Davis says the program allows teachers to focus more on instruction than discipline because the rules are the same in every classroom.

“It’s allowed for teachers to teach and students to learn,” Davis said. “Constant intervention is a waste of time. With disciplined students, you can get to more curriculum and get more in-depth with it.”

By cutting down on suspension rates, it gives students more time in the classroom, which officials hope will lead to higher test scores.

The program began in Oregon, where researchers found that the behavior of students with severe disabilities improved if teachers modeled positive social behavior. The program was expanded to include all students.

Under Kentucky’s program, participating schools send a leadership team to undergo four days of training. Team members are also allowed to use an online system that tracks a school’s discipline statistics.

The program helped administrators at Roby Elementary in Shepherdsville realize most of the school’s discipline cases came from poor behavior in the hallways between classes.

Principal Gayle Korfhage started a drill in which her students would practice switching classes silently while walking with their hands behind their backs.

“We’re reinforcing the behavior that we want and not waiting until it becomes a problem,” she said.