[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on February 25th of this year, was our #4 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2019 countdown!]

Student behavior can have a positive or negative impact on academic achievement. Even just one student who is misbehaving can affect how much and how well an entire class is learning.

When we arrived at Betty Best Elementary in Houston in the summer of 2014 and dug into the school’s data, we saw there were 627 office referrals during the previous year. The problem was that there was no information behind that number. There were no reasons listed for the referrals. There were no breakdowns of the data by students, demographics, grade levels, departments, or teachers.

We set out to create an environment that would yield better social, emotional, and academic outcomes for students. From 2014 to 2018, we reduced the number of office referrals by 37 percent, in-school suspension days by 52 percent, and out-of-school suspension days by 97 percent. During this time, students’ passing rate on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) increased by 17 percentage points as well.

About the Author:

Renee Canales is the principal and Elizabeth Merwald is the behavior and prevention specialist at Betty Best Elementary, an urban Title I school in the Alief Independent School District in Houston, Texas.


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