Waco school highest bidder for Baylor grant

Mrs. Mathis works with her fourth-grade students during Station Time at Provident Heights Elementary School. She is one of four teachers who is funded by the Campus-Based Family Services grant. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Cameron Bocanegra | Reporter

Teaching positive behavior management became a core interest of Provident Heights Elementary School after being Waco ISD’s highest bidder for Baylor’s School of Education Campus-Based Family Services grant.

After the first year of assessment, the team of five school of education professors and five graduate students are now in the process of fully systematic behavior training using Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) to improve students’ positive behaviors and address the negative ones.

“First we identified teachers there who were really motivated to make changes as the ‘peace team’,” Dr. Tonya Davis, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology said. “They are the leaders we train and then they train the teachers. We help them develop their skills so they can see why it is important to teach kids how to engage in the correct behaviors at school.”

This core group of teachers, the “peace team,” represents the elementary, middle elementary and upper elementary grades. With Baylor faculty, they are developing their PBIS system to sustain so once the Baylor school of education leaves Provident Heights, their own teachers will be experts in setting behavioral expectations.

“PBIS is mandated by federal law, but schools often don’t have the resources to do it well, so we go in and create the structure,” Davis said. “It’s important teachers know how to teach children how to behave correctly the same way they teach children how to read and do math.”

The type of student behavior they are focused on includes small actions that make up a big portion of school time like how children should be walking to the cafeteria, raising their hands, visiting the library and using the bathroom. Addressing it begins with lesson plans, parent-teacher conferences, routines, and embedding procedures throughout everyday of teaching.

“When kids aren’t specially taught behaviors then they do whatever they think is right,” Kristen Padilla-Mainor, clinical asssistant professor in the school of education, said. “We want to focus the students on what the expected behavior is, what we want to observe and if it’s done, then this is how a teacher will respond.”

They are reinforcing positive behavior in the classroom to create a more manageable classroom for the teachers and a better learning environment for the students. Instead of treating behavior as something that needs to be punished, they are showing teachers how to make it into a teaching and learning opportunity.

The school of education team is currently looking at other resources to extend the grant since the final year of the project is approaching and funding is dwindling. Not only are they up against time, but also a three-tier system of education intervention. The first tier is assessment of the entire class with screening; the second is targeted small group instruction with other students; The third is intensive intervention when the student is considered applicable for special education services through state resources.

“Research shows it takes three to five years because we are only still on tier one on the 3 tier system using conscious discipline in curriculum,” Mainor said. “So far, the school community we are getting through this has been incredible. They really want Baylor’s presence so there’s a lot of energy present while great relationships are still being made.”