As the 2018-19 school year came to an end, Cranston’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, pilot program schools were already looking ahead to the next year and examining data to assess the success of the programs being utilized at the secondary level.
The information points to a successful rollout, and both Cranston High School West Assistant Principal David Schiappa and Cranston Public Schools PBIS Coordinator Andrea Piccirillo said they are pleased with the changes they have seen both in school culture data and in disciplinary data.
For example, at Cranston West, the number of referrals during the 2018-19 school year decreased by 1,094, with 124 less behavioral referrals. At Hope Highlands Middle School, disciplinary infractions decreased from 131 in the 2017-18 school year to 114 in the 2018-19 school year. The number of suspensions dropped from 47 in 2017-18 to just 16 in 2018-19.
In addition to the statistics, both Schiappa and Piccirillo noted a change in school culture at the schools where the pilot programs were rolled out.
“We saw people working together and a lot more positivity in the schools,” Schiappa said. “Those who were uncertain at first about having a program like this at the secondary level, I helped them to better understand it, and we definitely had 85-90 percent of the staff participating. From the beginning, people had their doubts, but then they really started to see the difference the program was making.”
Schiappa noted that the faculty rewards portion of the program was popular. He said he saw an increase in people smiling in the hallways and an overall increase in positivity.
“One educator even told me that for him, it was a ripple effect, that the more positivity that was taking place inside of school impacted his positive outlook outside of school,” he said.
Although it may have been a hard sell to launch the program, Schiappa said just before graduation, he had seniors lined up at his door, all hoping to use their remaining PBIS points before they left Cranston West.
Piccirillo explained that the emphasis on attendance as part of the PBIS rewards drove the tardiness and absentee rates down and attendance rates up.
“We raffled off big-ticket items at the end of every month for rewards,” she said.
Schiappa explained that in the new Rhode Island school ratings, Cranston West missed getting the fifth star because of attendance rates.
“We want that fifth star, and this is a way to make school more fun,” he said. “It makes kids want to come.”
Both Piccirrillo and Schiappa took staff and student suggestions seriously as they tried to assess what types of rewards were popular and motivating.
“We followed up and followed through,” he said. “They asked for spirit wear and for gift cards to Tropical Smoothies, and we got them for them.”
As Piccirrillo and Schiappa look ahead to next year, they are excited that the program will be expanding beyond just the pilot schools and into additional schools. They said they are grateful for the support of community partners who have made donations of goods and services for the rewards, as well as to the central administration for helping to support the program’s implementation and expansion.
“Absolute Fun recently donated a dunk tank for one of our fundraisers at the end of the year,” Schiappa said. “Without the support of all of our community partners, we couldn’t do all that we did with rewards and special events.”
Additionally, at a time when teacher morale may be low nationwide, both Schiappa and Piccirillo were pleased with the impact PBIS has had on school culture. They said the program created more connections between colleagues and also between faculty and students. Many of this year’s Panorama Survey statistics rose at Cranston West, specifically in the areas of respect between students (up 6 percentage points this year), respect from staff to students (up 8 percentage points this year) and the overall feeling of positive energy at school (up 10 percentage points this year).
“We have gotten so many ‘thank yous’ from faculty and staff this year, it’s really changed people’s perspectives and a lot of connections have been made,” Piccirillo said.
“We love seeing that excitement,” he said.
Both Piccirrillo and Schiappa know that the first year’s rollout, a half-year program, was just the start of a bigger and better program for next year.
“This is only phase one, and we accomplished so much,” he said. “Other schools are going to want to participate and the programs will expand even more. We are continuously reflecting on what we can do differently and we are meeting over the summer to plan for the full year rollout in September.”
However, before all of the planning for next year was fully underway, it was important to take the time to reflect on and celebrate last year’s successes.
“At the start of this, the initial statements were all about how this was going to be difficult to do at the secondary level, and that it was more of an elementary rewards program,” Schiappa said. “We are proud that we’ve proved them wrong.”