Maryland schools are demonstrating early successes with a new program that rewards students for good behavior, instead of just penalizing students for bad behavior. Combined with a computerized database to track how different rewards plans are working and training in using the computer system, teachers across the state are getting valuable information about how to improve student attention and discipline.

The rewards systems vary from school to school. They may include opportunities for extra arts-and-crafts time, or having the principal sit with the students at lunchtime. In some classrooms, students repeat motivational statements daily about the benefits of attending class, doing their work, and listening to the teacher.

While the concepts that underlie the program are not original, the emphasis on consistent implementation of the principles and constant feedback through computerized analysis are unusual. The program was developed by George Segui, a University of Oregon professor, who suggests that the program be implemented over a three-year period that includes regular professional development courses.

Maryland began the program in the summer of 1999 with a summer course about using positive feedback instead of negative feedback. In the course, teachers also learned how to input data on discipline incidents—positive and negative—into a computer and analyze the data. When patterns emerge, such as aggression problems, teachers can take more training in handling that type of problem. The 39 schools using the program have had such positive results that Maryland is adding 40 schools to the program this year.