A lot of school campuses would like to cultivate a more positive culture. So what stands in the way?
There’s a growing number of school districts focusing on creating positive school environments as a means of promoting student achievement. Each day, educators realize that deterring bad behaviors with a strict penal code is a much harder, less effective means to bring about student success.
Unfortunately, there are several hurdles in the way of educators who are implementing programs to instill a positive school environment.
Below, we’ll talk about the two main hurdles in the way of schools trying to create a more positive campus.
1. The Volume of Evaluations and Blanket Policies
The first challenge facing schools in creating positive school culture is the volume of evaluations and blanket policies.
Schools — inundated with procedures, requirements, and federally mandated tests — have little time left after the paperwork is done to work on changing school culture.
According to Sean Slade, educational policies take up so many school resources that school leaders are hard pressed to do any more than simply “add on” a strategy to promote a positive school climate rather than make it the priority:
“Policy is still condemning the promotion of school climate to an add-on or a nice to-do, something to concern oneself with once the evaluations are in. Yet for those who understand the power of climate and the culture of learning that can be established in a school, this is a misinformed decision.”
When significant amounts of funding goes toward evaluations and other government initiatives, it makes it difficult to make the investment in non-obligatory positive behavior programs. Many districts realize the importance of programs such as PBIS or RTI but are forced to use their money elsewhere to comply with different (albeit well-intentioned) policies.
This creates a sad state of affairs, because there’s no policy, program, or strategy that can compare to the unique results achieved from promoting a positive school culture.
2. An Abundance of Behavior Programs, Methods, and Frameworks
The second challenge educators face is the fragmented nature of the still-evolving “alternative discipline” space.
The many programs, methods, and frameworks designed to improve student behavior and school climate in the educational world today can be confusing, to say the least. The list of abbreviations is lengthy — PBIS, RTI, RJ, to name a few — and the complexity and variety of these programs can be daunting.
Schools may already be saddled with obligatory programs and would therefore find it beyond feasibility to try out new culture-shifting programs without being mandated to do so.
Another danger presents itself in the temporal nature of the discipline space. Some school districts view these behavior-redirection programs as fleeting and may not embrace them as core values in their approach to disciplinary policies.
Sean Slade says, “Too many educators view these as separate entities, or at worst individual programs, to be implemented and run for a set period of time. Yet each of these approaches seek to reengage the student in learning and reset the culture of the school.”
Educators seeking to move away from traditional disciplinary methods to more positive ones are going to experience a paradigm shift.
If these reinforcement-based programs are not fully understood and embraced from the outset, they are more likely to fail. The recommendations suggest that schools shouldn’t pick-and-choose programs ad hoc.
They must first adopt the behavioral management philosophy behind the strategy to achieve long-lasting success.