I would to share a specific technique that my colleagues and I have used at the high school, middle school, and elementary school levels to respond to assessment information, provide feedback, and differentiate behavioral supports for all students. We call this strategy follow up and follow through.
A prerequisite for this technique is a redefinition of the uses of, and reasons for, a behavior documentation form. This form is not synonymous with an office referral, which represents assessment data that are too late. When a student comes to the office with a referral, it limits our chances of proactively supporting him or her. A BDF, on the other hand, is typically completed when minor incidents occur. Students are not sent to the office when a BDF is completed (unless the misbehavior was of the major variety, which, after implementing behavioral RTI, we have found to be rare); instead, the teacher brings the form to the office at a convenient time once he or she completes it. Teachers may complete a few of these a day. The idea of follow up and follow through is that staff provide frequent, timely information on minor infractions and that administrative staff actively respond to the information within the BDF in a timely manner.
A Note on Sending Students to the Office: In matters of safety, a student leaving the instructional environment is totally appropriate. When safety is not a concern, the matter is complex, to say the least. The function of the student’s behavior may be to escape or avoid whatever is occurring in the classroom. Leaving the classroom reinforces, even rewards, the misbehavior and makes it more likely to occur in the future. Moreover, this response teaches neither the misbehaving student or other students in the class how to self-regulate. There are no easy answers, but there are answers. Differentiation, de-escalation, and restorative practice strategies offer alternatives.
On receiving these forms in the office, the administrative staff would quickly enter the data contained within the form itself into a software system that efficiently captures the information and allows for simple analyses to be conducted when necessary. Then, no more than twenty-four hours after the teacher completes the form, administrative leaders visit the student within the classroom, ideally the classroom or time period in which the incident occurred. Administrative leaders do not call students to the office, thereby requiring them to miss class and providing them with the opportunity to take as much time as humanly possible to walk to the office. No, they go to the students. In addition to minimizing the amount of time students are out of the class, this timely follow-up accomplishes three things.
- Teachers feel the support. (They think, “Wow, the administrators are good to their word. I completed this form yesterday, and here they are to follow up. I’m going to continue to trust this process.”)
- Other students notice. (They think, “Uh-oh. They’re here for that kid who acted out yesterday. They sure have high expectations here, and they hold you accountable.”)
- The student in question receives timely feedback. (He or she thinks, “Yikes. Here we go. I guess the staff here talk to each other.”)
On entering the class, the administrative staff ask to see the student, assuming to do so will not be significantly disrupting the learning environment. They exit the classroom with the student, move into the hallway, and begin by furthering their positive relationship with the student (asking, “How’s class today?” “How was the game last night?” “How’s your brother doing?”). They then proceed through the 3Rs.
- Reflection: “Tell me what happened here” (while referencing the form).
- Reteaching: “What should you have done? Oh, you’re not sure; let me be clear . . .”
- Restitution: “What can we do to make this right?” (Restitution may include an apology, an element of restorative practices, a consequence, or a combination of these.)
They conclude with the positive: “Hey. I know you’re a great kid, and I know you expect more from yourself, and we expect more from you too. Please do the right thing, know that I’m here for you, and have a great, great rest of your day.”
The administrators would write a date on the form that represents when they will stop checking in with the student: maybe they will only follow up once, or maybe every day for a week. When they communicate to parents, this is part of the information that they will share.
While this technique requires organization, and necessitates that administrators made getting out of the office a priority, this method of following up and following through is not difficult and produces many benefits in addition to those noted here. We believe that these timely, positive follow-ups prevent many actual office referrals for major infractions from ever being written. Early intervention is the best. We must, however, have data from efficient assessments; and we must do something with the evidence we gather.