Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 8, 2012

Frequent checks part of new alternative school strategy

Mike James
CNHI News Service

LLOYD — A new approach to troublesome students at Greenup County High School keeps more of them in class and keeps the classes focused on teaching rather than behavior problems, officials say.

What makes it work is checking frequently — as often as every five minutes for those with the most serious problems — on the classrooms of students identified as needing to improve their behavior, said Aaron Collier, director of alternative programming.

Called the Pass program, it is a modification of Greenup’s alternative school program, which houses students with behavior, attendance and discipline issues in a separate building on the high school grounds. The students work through four levels of behavior and performance improvement to earn privileges and attend more classes in the main school building.

Some students continue under that system, but others whose problems are not as severe remain in their regular classrooms under the close eyes of their teachers and four staffers who cover every part of the school to closely monitor their conduct.

Teachers use a system of small sticky notes, taping a green one to the classroom window to signify proper behavior, yellow for a moderate problem and red for a severe problem needing immediate resolution.

The four staffers, two of them certified teachers and the others paraprofessionals, patrol the hallways equipped with iPads. When they see a green note they continue on their way; if the note is yellow they step quietly inside the room and observe for a few minutes, and when they see red they assist the teacher in resolving the situation immediately.

The students spend part of their day in a skills instruction class, which could mean time management for those with tardiness issues, or anger management for those who can’t handle authority.

What school officials have learned is problem students often don’t have the proper grasp of routine school procedures, Collier said.

Depending on the severity of the problem, a monitor may check on a student every half hour, every 15 minutes or every five minutes in extreme cases.

The system is kept deliberately low key to keep student identities confidential and to avoid classroom disruption. The target students know they’re being watched, however, and that helps keep them focused on the behavior they need to change.

“What focuses them on the target behaviors is that they know they’re being watched every day, every period, all day long,” Collier said.

The monitoring can last a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on the student’s progress.

The monitors do more than roam the halls. They track behavior, provide resources to teachers, do research to help teachers, counsel students and find additional supports and structure for those who need it, said Mike Doran, who is one of the teachers in the program. “I probably do more work now than I did as a classroom teacher,” he said.

Classrooms remain more orderly and focused, said Becky Carter-Hunter, who is director of the reading lab. In previous years, teachers had to spend too much time getting problem students to cooperate. “The others sat there waiting. We spent so much time with discipline. This year we don’t have that,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.