Roots Elementary is a charter school that opened in 2015 to serve some of Denver, Colorado’s historically underserved communities. Their school is located in what was formerly the Holly Square shopping center – a center of activity and community in the neighborhood until gang violence in resulted in its firebombing and complete destruction in 2008. Since then, there’s been a remarkable effort by the city to reclaim the Holly with a focus on positive youth development to prevent outcomes that led to the fire in the first place. Roots Elementary, a K-3 school serving 180 kids, of which 90% are racial/ ethnic minorities (predominantly African American), is one piece of that larger puzzle led by the community.
Roots’ three main pillars include their rigorous academic program, facilitating development of social & emotional skills, and Project Wonder (emphasizing kids’ exploration of their real world identity). In order to remain true to these three pillars, the Roots leadership team prioritized creating a strong, safe, and predictable environment as this school year’s focus. Developing a strong behavior management system was paramount in working toward this mission. In designing their behavior management system, the Roots leadership team decided to move away from the more typically used color or demerit system and instead instituted a system based on logical consequences.
The way this system works is that adults administer consequences that are a logical result of the infraction (i.e. if two kids are disruptive during class, they get separated). While this system may be muddier and more subjective than more straightforward behavior systems, it works toward assisting children with their self-regulation skills, which was an identified area of growth for many of Roots’ students. With this system, behavioral infractions result in structured learning opportunities rather than punitive consequences. For 90% of their scholars, this logical consequence system works. But for more egregious behavior, Roots identified a need to design a schoolwide consequence system, as well as a streamlined way of tracking and communicating behavioral incidents. That’s where Schoolrunner came in.
Using Schoolrunner’s comprehensive behavior, discipline, and incident tracking platform, Roots began tracking these egregious behaviors they deemed as “tier 3″ behaviors (i.e. hitting, kicking, biting, etc.). How it works is this: the adult who witnessed the behavior brings the child to the Habits of Success Dean, Heidi. The adult then takes 3-5 minutes to log the date, time, location, students involved, action, and consequence. Heidi then pulls up that very same incident report while the child is employing a self-regulation strategy in order to de-escalate, and has a real-time, informed one-on-one conversation with the child once he/she is ready. Heidi then prints off the incident report in one click and delivers it to the parents of all scholars involved.
Keeping meticulous track of tier 3 behaviors has had a multitude of benefits. Firstly, the incident reporting system helps the narrative of the incident be as objective and accurate as possible. Secondly, logging behaviors in Schoolrunner’s system allows the incident details to be accessible to multiple members of the school community (i.e. teachers, administrators, and families), which eases the communication process. According to Roots’ Assistant Principal Nick Timmins,
“Now, as an administrator, I can read the incident details and follow up with the teacher to see if they think the child is ready to enter class again, or I can follow up a few days later to see how the child is doing. And in conversations with parents, I can say, ‘here is all the data we have, and it proves that your child needs these specific behavior or academic interventions.’”
Lastly, the data – which Schoolrunner allows schools to configure and view any way they desire – helps the Roots leadership team analyze these incidents and improve their systems so that they can decrease the prevalence of these negative behaviors. The leadership team regularly analyzes incident behavior by location, time of day, teacher, student, and behavior type.
“Analyzing the incident behavior by staff member provides great information for coaching conversations with teachers – which teachers are entering more of them, and why? It’s helpful in thinking and talking about equity and unconscious bias.” – Nick Timmins, Assistant Principal
Roots has had so much success tracking tier 3 behaviors in Schoolrunner that they began using the platform to formally track all referrals. The leadership team used referral data to determine that their behavior systems were effective during the first few months of the school year, as the number of referrals decreased from 36 per week at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year to 7 the week of Thanksgiving:
Building on the success of tracking referrals and tier 3 behavior data, Roots has begun tracking what they deem to be tier 2 behaviors, which are generally addressed with lunch detention. The Roots team has worked hard to ensure that lunch detention is not punitive – it’s essentially a forum where students write apologies, teachers visit to converse with kids and restore the relationship, and adults guide students down a peace path if they need to repair relationships with each other. As with tier 3 behaviors, Roots tracks these incidents in Schoolrunner, so families are kept apprised of the behaviors because they receive the incident report. Within the first three months of tracking tier 2 data, the Roots leadership team already saw success, as the number of tier 2 incidents decreased from 42 in February to 29 in April 2018.
The Roots Elementary leadership team is proud of their successes instilling and improving behavior management systems, and they acknowledge that having access to objective, real-time data has been a game-changer.
“With this system [Schoolrunner], the information is all right there. Having this data holds teachers accountable for making consequences logical AND restorative, and that’s huge.” – Jon Hanover, Founding School Leader & Executive Director
Roots Elementary is making huge strides in helping their students learn and use tools to self-regulate, resolve conflict, communicate their needs, and be productive members of a community – and the data proves it!