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positive school culture

Inspiring: Technology flips a school’s culture from negative to positive


Hero helps ‘flip the culture’ at Cedar Creek Middle School.

Technology has begun to transform how K-12 leaders track and manage student behavior, giving administrators real-time access to discipline information in the palm of their hand. But too often, the emphasis is on the negative behaviors students exhibit, such as being rude or late to class.

Cedar Creek Middle School in Texas is flipping that idea on its head, using a student behavior management platform called Hero to track positive as well as negative behaviors in real time—and school leaders are noticing a significant change in student conduct, and overall school culture, as a result.

Cedar Creek Middle School serves about 850 seventh and eighth grade students southeast of Austin. About two-thirds of its students are economically disadvantaged, 22 percent are English language learners, and 65 percent are academically at risk. Principal Edgar Rincon and his staff are working hard to bring that latter figure down, and they have started to see a shift in the school’s culture since they began to recognize and reward positive student behaviors earlier this year.

Recognizing Excellent Students

The school recently created a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, and adopting the Hero platform from Hero K12 was its first step in trying to encourage better behavior among students.

“We were spending 80 percent of our time focusing on just 20 percent of our students, who were the ones with behavior issues. But that means 80 percent of our students were excellent and weren’t getting the recognition they deserve,” said the school’s PBIS director, Karessa Parish.

“We wanted to flip the culture at our school,” she continued. “We had two objectives when we started using Hero: The first was to motivate the students who weren’t following expectations, and the second was to celebrate the kids who were doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

(Next page: How it works; measurable results in positive school culture)

How it Works

Hero helps teachers and administrators monitor all forms of student behavior, both good and bad. Using any web browser, the Hero Mobile Scanning Solution, or an Android or iOS device, teachers and administrators can capture student behavior where and when it happens, keep accurate attendance records, and assign warnings and consequences (or rewards for positive behavior) automatically.

The software can be customized with specific behaviors, incentives, and interventions—and it also shares behavior data with a school’s student information system.

During the transition periods between classes, Cedar Creek administrators roam the hallways to make sure students are wearing their ID badges, aren’t late for class, and are not in violation of the school’s dress code or cell phone policy. If a student receives too many tardy violations, he or she is required to attend Friday and/or Saturday school.

Besides issuing violations, teachers and administrators also award points to reinforce positive behaviors.

Good behavior in a Cedar Creek Hall.

“If I see examples of good hallway etiquette, or an act of kindness—like if a student picks up a piece of trash—then I’ll reward that behavior with Hero points,” Rincon said. Teachers typically award points to students for behaviors such as being on task, being respectful, or putting forth effort in class.

Students can track how many points they have accumulated through the Hero app, and they can redeem their points in the school store. “We have a variety of incentives, ranging from snacks and mystery brown bags with three or four trinkets in them for lower point values, to ear buds and t-shirts for higher point values,” Parish said. Rincon also treats students with the highest point totals to lunch out at a restaurant.

The Cedar Creek Points Store.

Tracking student behaviors with a mobile app is very simple, Rincon said: “I have seen others try to do PBIS by handing out self-made tickets, but with this technology, there’s no need for that. Plus, we don’t have to worry about counterfeit tickets. It’s very convenient.” And with Hero, parents can receive notification of their children’s behaviors through a companion app as well.

Cedar Creek received a grant from the Bastrop Education Foundation to fund its subscription to Hero for the 2017-18 school year. “The Bastrop Education Foundation has been very supportive in aiding our vision for these new initiatives,” Rincon said. “We could not do it without them.”

Measurable Results in a Positive School Culture

Since Cedar Creek Middle School began using the software, discipline problems are on the decline. For instance, monitoring the hallways during the transition periods, tracking overall tardiness, and rewarding students for arriving on time–and has resulted in a decline in the number of students who are late to class.

What’s more, students are demonstrating more positive behaviors and acts of kindness as well.

“Overall, we have created a more positive environment,” Parish said. “Before, we only had consequences to give out. We didn’t really think about recognizing the positives. But if you only hear the bad things you’re doing all the time, you’ll never think you can do anything good. They say the ratio of positive to negative feedback is supposed to be five to one, and I think we’re accomplishing that with Hero.”

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