A Change in Climate Headed for Brookview Elementary
here’s a breakdown in discipline at Brookview Elementary. The kids at the Fulton County school are spending more time in the principal’s office than they are in the classroom. In fact, students missed 39 days of instructional time during the past two school years because of discipline referrals, and administrators lost 59 days to handle those referrals.
But Brookview Principal Dionne Glass has hope for her school and dared to ask, “What might happen if that time went back to instruction, and teachers were coached on how to handle minor discipline referrals in the classroom? And how might a more positive learning climate affect student engagement, teacher morale, and ultimately, academic achievement?”
She found answers to her questions in a new classroom prototype that’s reinforcing children’s feelings of safety and strengthening their emotional health during the school day. Early Education Success through Positive Learning Climates is that prototype for what is possible through a safe, supportive, and productive Learning Climate—one of the four strategic pillars of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s common agenda. The idea is that when children feel safe and welcome—and have positive relationships with adults in school—they are more likely to attend, behave appropriately, and learn.
“We’re working to strengthen our school-wide culture and feeling of community,” said Glass. “We know we’re moving in the right direction, but we need to continue to enhance our practices. That’s why we wanted to participate in this early-learning climate prototype. Our goal is to expose Pre-K students to school after Pre-K and embed them into our everyday data-driven processes and initiatives.”
The Early Learning Climate Prototype, which is funded by the David, Helen, and Marian Woodward Fund—Atlanta, and implemented through Metropolitan Regional Educational Service Agency (MRESA), in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), is a research-informed approach designed to teach teachers and all student-support staff how to use positive behavior to improve the learning climate—an indicator significantly correlated with third-grade reading outcomes.
“Research indicates that the brain is developing the capacity for self-regulation of behavior throughout a child’s first eight years, making it a necessity for adults to help them manage their own behavior—not just in preschool, but beyond into the early elementary school years,” said Michelle Sandrock, Early Learning Climate manager at MRESA. “With this in mind, the prototype is designed to bring early learning, classroom-based social-emotional strategies, and early learning behavior support into elementary schools.”
According to Sandrock, this model provides children with the support they need while developing teachers’ ability to keep their students calm, engaged, and safe by increasing students’ social-emotional competence—a foundation necessary for learning. What makes this effort unique is its objective to align preschools’ behavioral practices (Program-wide PBIS (PW-PBIS), the Pyramid Model) with elementary schools (School-wide PBIS (SW-PBIS), which are operating under two different positive learning climate frameworks.
“I’m excited about working with Brookview because they have a small, tight-knit community of parents, teachers, and students,” said Leah Black, early learning climate specialist at MRESA. They have quite a few challenging behaviors to address within their school, but Dionne Glass is energized and dedicated to creating a more positive learning climate.”
The school is in the process of selecting six to eight people to serve on its leadership team to support this work. Two key roles for this work are the PBIS internal coaching facilitator and the PBIS classroom practices coach.
Brookview is just one of two elementary schools and one early learning center in Fulton County, and six additional schools and early learning centers in DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools selected for this prototype to improve the learning climate.
“I hope to truly see a cultural shift in the way we manage challenging behaviors by focusing less on student behaviors and more on helping schools get all students reading proficiently by the time they enter third grade,” said Black. “As a former assistant principal, I know the benefits of getting kids the support they need to make the shift from problem student to progressive student. It is my passion to see all children successful in all learning environments to ensure that they are college and career ready.”
Communications Associate—Get Georgia Reading
GaFCP Communications Director