A Very Brief Look at a Few Behavioral Approaches in the Schools
"We got no choice, all the girls and boys." Alice Cooper, School's Out, 1972
In the past, students with behaviors of concern were most often swiftly dealt with through the school's general education discipline policy. Usually that meant the paddle, referrals, detentions, suspensions, expulsions and such. After dirty looks and stern lectures, the student's parents would be called in for further shaming. Then the student would be sent home for more paddling and grounding for life. Most often that behavior would stop and the adults would feel better.
But behavior problems did not go away. In fact, behavior, second only to academics, remains a huge concern and has seemingly remained, or has become, the primary focus in many schools and classrooms.
There are a lot of behavioral programs and approaches in education - way too many to list in this very brief resource, but here are just a few for your consideration...
The Paddle/Corporal Punishment
"The original alternative 'free' school founded in 1921, it continues to be an influential model for progressive, democratic education around the world. Summerhill is the oldest children's democracy in the world. It is probably the most famous alternative or 'free' school. The system that Summerhill employs is not only about education - it is also a different way of parenting which eliminates most of the friction and many of the problems experienced by modern families."
Although still thriving in England, this model, encouraging democratic approaches (i.e., allowing and encouraging students to be highly involved in their own education) has never caught on in North America because, well, you know, we can't have that.
Schools Without Failure
Dr. William Glasser, "...a psychiatrist who published more than two dozen books promoting his view that mental health is mostly a matter of personal choice, a precept that found a vast popular audience and influenced teachers, drug counselors and personal therapists, died on August 23rd, 2013 in Los Angeles. He was 88" (New York Times).
Glasser is one of my personal heroes and has been influential not just to me but for millions of others. Although he has passed, his important works should live on, empowering humans who choose to be empowered.
Allowing and encouraging students to become responsible for their actions, working cooperatively with students, de-emphasizing labels, psychiatric conditions, and punishment is an appealing approach for millions but for some reason, Schools Without Failure, Reality Orientation/Therapy, and Choice Theories have not become widely accepted in American schools. Maybe because so many American schools are punishment based, allow few or no student choices, and don't have the faith or expectation that a 14 year old could ever be responsible or make great choices.
Discipline With Love And Logic
"Discipline With Love and Logic offers adults an alternative way to communicate with children. The Love and Logic techniques produce immediate results because the techniques are simple, practical, and easy to learn. The concepts behind Love and Logic place a heavy emphasis on respect and dignity for children and at the same time allows parents to grasp simple approaches instead of learning difficult counseling procedures.
Founder and former school principal, over 30 years of experience as a speaker and consultant, Jim Fay has become one of America's most sought-after presenters in the fields of parenting, positive discipline, and classroom management."
I have been very fortunate to have met Jim Fay and a long time ago attended one of his presentations. Discipline With Love And Logic promotes the use of high levels of respect, dignity, and logic in working with humans (and yes, students are humans too).
Developed by Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott, Positive Discipline in the Classroom is a research-based classroom management program that empowers teachers with skills to build their students' sense of community, prepare them for successful living, and increase academic achievement."
Teacher empowerment, sense of community, successful living, academic achievement, encouragement... that's all good stuff, but seemingly not everyone in the schools agreed. By the mid 90's, those in charge of making decisions decided it was time to get tough. These positive "touchy-feely" approaches weren't working in their eyes. It was time to pass some laws and assert their, um, control.
Millions of dollars have been made available to the schools for mental health services. If/when the student doesn't like homework, someone always hopes to be the first to state that the child must be "crazy" and, um, needs mental health services. Mental health "services" are especially available for males, minorities, and children of poverty (so insurance can cover it). These "services" are not free (remember, we're supposed to be providing a "free" and appropriate public education [FAPE]). I've written a lot about mental health in the schools already so I guess I'll leave it at that for here and now. Parents, if your school is trying to get you to pay for your kid's mental health "help" (i.e., "meds") contact your state's department of education.
"Assertive discipline is an approach to classroom management developed by Lee and Marlene Canter. It involves a high level of teacher control in the class. It is also called the "take control" approach to teaching, as the teacher controls their classroom in a firm but positive manner" (Google).
Okay, no more nonsense... the um "groundbreaking approach to classroom management that promotes students' academic success. Transforms teaching in traditionally underserved communities."
You're the adult - take charge! Transformation Teacher Training: if the students don't behave it's your fault. Control these underserved minority students. If you don't, we're gonna get really tough and we don't mean maybe!
"Tough love: 1. promotion of a person's welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions; 2. North American: a political policy designed to encourage self-help by restricting state benefit" (Google Summary).
"Tough love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run" (from Wikipedia).
"This is gonna hurt but you'll thank me later."
"Love hurts." Nazareth, 1976
Tough love is not to be confused with "the paddle."
When/if Tough Love doesn't work, then it's time to get really, really tough (i.e., take the 'love' out of it)...
"Juvenile boot camps (also called shock or intensive incarceration programs) are short-term residential programs that resemble military basic training and target adjudicated juvenile offenders. The primary goal of juvenile boot camps is to reduce recidivism by modifying participants' problem behaviors including antisocial behaviors that likely increase their odds of reoffending. Behavior modification occurs through a reinforcement of positive behavior and immediate punishment of negative behavior." Click here for more...
I've always been amazed at how many in the schools think the kid needs to be off into prison... and those in the prisons think the kid needs to be in school. More back-and-forth. Do you ever feel like students are just shuffled around back and forth for 18 years?
For awhile (maybe even still?) there was a very fine line between the terms, "student" and "criminal."
Life was getting pretty tough for the crimina -- whoops, I mean students. Whether in boot camp or in class, the use of aversive behavioral "interventions" (aka punishment) finally killed one or more students in the bay area. It was time for some legislation... something, you know, "more positive."
The Hughes Bill
I thought that once aversive techniques administered by the behaviorists resulted in actual student deaths, that would be the end of behaviorism. I thought we in the schools could start providing more humane and respectful services with dignity... but wow, was I wrong! Just in the nick of time, the behaviorists got rescued. Indeed, their behavioral philosophy was actually legislated through the Hughes Bill (California Code of Regulations Title 5 - 3052). This time though, the behaviorists promised to be nicer. No more lemon juice in the eyes, no more extreme time-outs and isolations, no more rolling up the student in gym mats so that breathing would stop...
So behaviorism was actually legislated with a whole new set of mandated procedures intended to, um, not kill students... you know, to be more positive. This law resulted in a lot of money-making opportunitie$ for the behaviorists because someone (The BICM - Behavior Intervention Case Manager) had to be in charge of compliance with all these new laws and regulations!
You could read more about the Hughes Bill in this Fun Parent Brochure developed by Solano County SELPA.
AB 86: Easy Come, Easy Go, Easy Come...
So if something can be legislated into existence, it can be legislated out of existence. That's what has kind of happened to the Hughes Bill.
From Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLC: "Two updates recently occurred related to behavior plans for special education students. First, Assembly Bill 86 (AB 86) was passed, resulting in the repeal of the Hughes Bill as of July 1, 2013. Second, the State Controller issued claiming instructions for school districts to access more than $1 billion of retroactive reimbursement related to the Hughes Bill costs incurred by school districts during previous school years.
The interested reader can find all the details here.
So let's take a moment and think about all this for just a moment. In an extreme over-reaction, the legislature had passed a new law (the Hughes Bill) requiring many new services for students and in the process, um, forgot to fund it. So for a long period of time, districts were spending a whole lot of money, some nearly going bankrupt in the process, for these services (or protections if you will). Finally, the law was repealed and districts were given back some money for their, um, time and efforts. You, the taxpayer, paid for all this.
Old habits die hard. Even though BICMs and FAABs are no longer required by California law, some SELPAs and districts have invented a COBIS (behavioral specialist) who will swoop in and do what the old BICMs used to do. Why? Because that's what they do. So not to worry, the behaviorists are still coming out way ahead!
This is what happened when the behaviorists legislated their philosophy.
"Don't legislate your philosophy." Donald J. Asbridge, 1995
Not to worry. Thousands of behavioral consultants are still out there and they are always in the ready position to contract with districts to come in and straighten out the teachers and address the, um, importance of the classroom environment.
NOTE: I am aware of Mr. Howerton's works and they are very good; he provides outstanding services for districts and teachers. I am just trying to point out that you don't have to worry for the behaviorists... there is plenty of work for the behaviorists (at taxpayers' expense) and behaviorism seemingly remains at the forefront of, well, almost everything we have to do in the schools.
Sometimes I think behavior is over-rated. Maybe the kid is just having a bad day?
Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)
But we know that won't happen. And there's more of course, there always is.
PBIS appears to require three years of extensive staff trainings before implementation. PBIS requires the establishment of universal screening and progress monitoring along a three-tiered system of interventions so that decisions can be based on data (you know, data collected and interpreted by a, a, a behaviorist). Yeah, that'll happen.
The idea is that if we just do PBIS, we can stop the School To Prison Pipeline the behaviorist created to begin with.
When properly implemented, CHARACTER COUNTS! is an immersive program connecting staff and students through a shared language and framework of values called The Six Pillars of Character. It fosters a positive environment that has been shown to improve overall attendance and test scores while reducing negative incidents such as bullying and discipline referrals.
I once knew a football coach who worked in my district. I was pretty amazed at the high levels of discipline his teams displayed. One day I asked him, "Larry, what is your secret with discipline? Your teams have the highest level of discipline I've ever seen... what is your philosophy?" He said, "Well Don, I don't really have to spend any time at all on discipline - we're too busy playing football to worry about all that discipline stuff."
An increasing number of administrators seem to be getting it too. I've heard several of them answer, "There's no substitute for quality teaching." In other words, a teacher can spend their time teaching... or they can spend their time yelling at the students, giving them dirty looks, um, etc. The same concept holds true for parents too.
As always, you get to come to your own conclusions.
Professionally, I remain primarily a reality therapist with a strong reality orientation.
Respect and dignity go a long way when working with humans.
Student behavior is a multi-billion dollar industry; many seem to have a stake in how John behaves.
The reader should be aware this resource is very brief. Continue to gather information as you make your choices.
Thank you for visiting XP's newest Resource, "A Very Brief Look at a Few Behavioral Approaches in the Schools."
I hope you enjoyed it and as always, I hope you'll consider sharing it with others.
If you have comments or questions, please feel free to Contact XPsych
STATUS CHANGE: On Saturday, February 27th, 2016, A Very Brief Look has been downgraded from an XP ClassiX to a Resource for three primary reasons: 1) It does not meet the high standards nor does it fulfill the criteria required to be an XP ClassiX; 2) Behavior, just like reading, is over-rated; and 3) No one can get past the paddle - everyone apparently wants to just beat the tar out of the kid - no one wants to take the time to think about, um, what might be a humane and successful approach to solving problems - they seem to want to go straight for God's vengeance.
Few seem to understand (or care about) the art, nuance, and creativity of providing opportunities for children to make positive choices - the kind that will allow them to learn from their actions and accept responsibility as they strive toward independence and positive mental health. Just this week I was once again having this [frequent] discussion - you know, the one where I encourage providing the student choices. The response, as always, was pretty predictable... a long story about the tragedy his liberal niece had with her children giving them [all these] "choices" and how the children ran the home and were out of control and all they really needed was the [biblical] paddle.
A Very Brief Look © 2015-2022. Donald J. Asbridge, Ed.S. XPsych.com Bakersfield, CA USA. Some rights reserved.
Published: November 22nd, 2015 • Downgraded to Resource Status on February 27th, 2016