How Strategic Thinking and Planning Make for Improved Behavior

Checking In on Behavior: 5 Ways to Improve Student Outcomes with Behavior Supports edLeader Panel recording link

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Meeting student needs is crucial to their academic performance, school engagement, and social-emotional well-being. Providing individualized interventions that undergird and promote all students’ progress is therefore vital.

During the edLeader Panel, “Checking In on Behavior: 5 Ways to Improve Student Outcomes with Behavior Supports,” educators described how their schools and districts address student needs using a five-step Intervention Mapping protocol to structure effective behavior change efforts:

  • Creating firm goals with strategies
  • Implementing procedures and practices for teaching emotional and social skills
  • Setting clear expectations for behavior
  • Streamlining and unifying behavior reporting
  • Building a shared understanding of incident data

The panelists’ strategies model strategic behavioral support decision making and program development that can benefit other schools and districts.

Heath City School District (OH)

Heath City, serving about 1,700 students, has two goals; academics is the first. The district revisited its second goal when it discovered that its nine-year-old Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) did not provide students or staff with sufficient support. Now, the district focuses on enhanced support, which required retraining administrative staff and establishing new PBIS expectations.

The result of the district’s re-envisioning is a multi-pronged strategy for teaching social-emotional skills development. Programming includes:

  • Administering Panorama Education surveys to discover student and staff needs
  • Check-ins with students and staff in between survey taking
  • Having students in crisis meet regularly with social-emotional Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) teams
  • A Google form staff complete when there is a student need—academic, social-emotional, behavioral—that, once reviewed, informs relevant interventions
  • Trauma-informed staff training and signs of suicide training for counselors
  • ROX, a girl empowerment program, offered in elementary through high school
  • A shift from behavioral to social-emotional MTSS to focus on the whole child
  • A pilot of the Second Step Program, which enables schools to build supportive communities through social-emotional learning
  • Extended intervention support to kindergarten classrooms
  • Explicit PBIS vocabulary and expectations to ensure students understand what is required
  • State-sponsored PBIS training through a whole-child lens

Heath has been a Leader in Me District, a program through FranklinCovey based on the famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It created the slogan that shapes its behavioral programming: “Lead with integrity. Engage with effort. Act with empathy. Define your circle.” Programs include:

  • Weekly LEAD activity time for middle and high school students, during which they complete surveys to identify areas of interest and then connect with a staff member and peers to create a sense of belonging while exploring behavioral expectations.
  • Creating Wildly Important Goals (also from Covey and traditionally centered on academics) to focus on social-emotional and well-being, and inviting students to take ownership as a class and as individuals.

Tracking student behavioral data has been a struggle for the district because cumulative data come at the end of the school year. The district’s goal is to get data more readily and quickly. Attendance is an example of expedited data collection. Following attendance weekly to make fixes earlier—for example, calling and meeting with parents of chronically absent students—has reduced absenteeism by 50%.

Currently, district leadership and teacher teams use Panorama for reporting. It plans to analyze individual students and behavior incident types across schools; look at students’ well-being and social-emotional plans to tie back to its matrix; and draw from data insight into the kind of supports, resources, and training staff need. The ultimate goal? To use data to support the whole child.

Ogden School District (UT)

Ogden is an urban district serving about 10,500 students across 18 schools. It has two overarching goals: literacy and graduation. Each has three anchors: academic excellence, social-emotional learning, and talent development.

There are several facets of the district’s social-emotional learning efforts:

  • It requires every school to establish a social-emotional learning goal that generates data. If it’s Tier 1 (intervention level) PBIS implementation, the goal is to increase students’ sense of belonging. If It’s Tier 1 attendance, the goal is enhanced classroom management the student advocacy team supports.
  • Each school has a PBIS building facilitator who works within a district team, thus guaranteeing that the student population receives the same level of support across schools.
  • Social skills development is a Tier 1 element, with Pre-K classrooms involved in Second Step.
  • Classroom management support is a primary effort to retain new teachers.

Ogden schools set schoolwide behavior expectations with which classrooms are aligned and are taught at the beginning of the year. Consistent reinforcement systems—such as the monthly Tier 1 PBIS and attendance meetings—ensure adherence to expectations throughout the year.

The district uses Educators Handbook to track and report behavior data, enabling the PBIS building facilitator to identify where incidents typically occur and what students are not responding to. They also inform Tier 1 next steps—what to reinforce or reteach, when to get student feedback, and what support programs to launch (e.g., small group social-skills development, a preventive problem-solving plan, additional interventions, etc.)

School teams also complete the PBIS Tiered Fidelity Inventory at the start and end of the school year to measure systems they have established, determine strengths they developed, and identify where additional support is necessary. Teams then create action plans to address areas in need of improvement.

Alliance College-Ready Middle Academy 4 (CA)

Alliance College-Middle School 4 is one of 26 schools in the charter school Alliance College-Ready network, designed to graduate 75% or more of its scholars (students) from a four-year college or university. Middle Academy 4 serves 450 primarily Latino and Black scholars, many with special needs. Its three primary goals are to:

  • Focus on strengthening the school community to promote collaborative support
  • Empower students and teachers by developing social-emotional competencies, including self-awareness, self-management, decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills
  • Accelerate scholars’ learning by leveraging data systems to determine differentiated, targeted, and just-in-time academic and behavioral supports

The academy has applied several strategies to address the goals, implementing intentional professional development for grade-level teaching teams. Among the methods are:

  • Providing students with social-emotional or mind breaks during academic lessons, enabling teachers to foster connections with scholars
  • Generating mutual respect and trust between teachers and students by shifting from a punitive shame/blame (reactive) approach to challenges to a responsive one that differentiates scholar needs and circumstances
  • Giving grade-level teachers autonomy to create plans and systems specific to their students’ unique needs

Supporting teachers is vital to achieving the goals. The academy does this in several ways:

  • Listening to understand teachers’ perspectives on social-emotional teaching and learning to help them feel comfortable with the discipline. The school has partnered with external organizations to provide insight and strategies, such as trauma-informed practices.
  • Launching scholar and community-building circles for staff (mirroring those for scholars) to experience a sense of belonging, have courageous conversations, and name fears.

Middle Academy has shifted to restorative practices to address discipline, moving away from consequence ladders to address behavioral challenges. Teachers use a management matrix to assess their actions in navigating student behavior.

SOAR (safety, organization, achievement, and respect) values are schoolwide behavioral expectations that ensure a community of respect and a safe environment. Accountability projects encourage scholars to reflect on their actions to promote their responsibility and accountability for positive behavior.

Using the newly launched Panorama data system, the academy seeks to increase communication and build systems to support ownership and parent engagement. It will use the program’s praise app to celebrate students and analyze data to determine their progress to create a student culture of excitement and care. This approach grounds students in behavioral expectations, coupled with methods that invite scholars to analyze and name their behaviors, which inform necessary supports.

To better log the range and consistency of behavior incidents, the school will use data to discover the root causes of behavioral challenges (Is a student having difficulty because of the time of day? Are situations happening in one class only?). Teachers and administrators will work together to create a culture of feedback and support to address behavior issues, gaps, and management practices. Students may also review the data to reflect on and set goals for progress.

Plan Ahead

Improving student behavior is critical to student success, but it’s no easy task to design and implement programs and interventions. Strategic thinking, planning, and partnering are essential to a design process that supports an entire school community and leads to positive outcomes.


Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “Checking In on Behavior: 5 Ways to Improve Student Outcomes with Behavior Supports,” sponsored by Panorama Education.

Watch the Recording Listen to the Podcast

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Panorama EducationPanorama Education partners with K-12 schools and districts across the country to collect and analyze data about social-emotional learning, school climate, family engagement, and more. With research-backed surveys and a leading technology platform, Panorama helps educators act on data and improve student outcomes. Panorama supports 15 million students in 21,000 schools and 1,500 districts across 50 states.


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Blog post by Michele Israel, based on this edLeader Panel.

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