California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Discipline: a fair, consistent, and positive approach

Positive rules and discipline policies focus on helping students learn prosocial behaviors rather than on controlling behavior. Effective schools make sure the behavioral expectations are clear to both parents and students, and the school staff is careful to adhere to the rules and be fair. The following strategies are effective for reminding students about school rules:

  • Post school rules in classrooms.
  • Provide student planners that include behavioral expectations, rules, and the discipline policy.
  • Host award celebrations that honor students for exemplary behavior related to each of the school’s rules.

In high-performing middle schools, regular data review sessions (such as monthly reviews of suspension data) help the staff ensure that no group receives a disproportionate percentage of disciplinary actions. If there is a “cluster” of discipline referrals related to gender, race, ethnicity, or other subgroup, the teaching team can analyze data and develop strategies (including community mentors) to remedy the situation. Ideally, at least once a year, the school staff will review the rules and policies for appropriateness, equity, and consistency with the school’s mission and culture.

Most faculty teams soon learn that they need to “pick their battles” and focus on essentials rather than on a laundry list of rules. As one former principal noted, “After much thought, the faculty chose to focus on five rules outlining a code of behavior in harmony with our work as educators, not prison guards. We posted these rules, simple but reflective of our deepest beliefs, in every classroom:

  • Show respect for all people in the school community.
  • Keep hands, feet, and all other objects to ourselves.
  • Finish class work and all homework.
  • Read.
  • Learn as much as we are able.”1

In the Spotlight

Serrano Intermediate School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
Several years ago, the school staff implemented a data management system for tracking discipline called Effective Behavior Support (EBS). Teachers at the school found that it helped them to distinguish between major and minor infractions so school administrators could work with students who needed the most guidance. Teachers at Serrano use EBS as a data management tool; it is not intended to replace good classroom management by teachers.

Related Links

Classroom management

Attendance, tardiness, truancy, and the School Attendance Review Board (SARB)

1Joanne Rooney, Picking Our Battles (Outside Source), Educational Leadership, Vol. 63, No. 7 (April 2006), 88.

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