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Metro Atlanta Schools and Childcare Centers Launch Early Learning Climate Prototype


Tara Davis, PBIS Educational Program specialist at GaDOE, shares "What is Behavior?" with the elementary school PBIS leadership teams.

Tara Davis, PBIS Educational Program specialist at GaDOE, shares “What is Behavior?” with the elementary school PBIS leadership teams.

Motivated by evidence of the strong relationship between school climate and reading proficiency, an innovative public-private partnership is creating a model for promoting positive learning climates in Atlanta’s early-learning centers and elementary schools.

The Early Learning Climate Prototype is a research-informed approach designed to teach teachers and staff how to use Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to improve the learning climate—an indicator significantly correlated with third-grade reading outcomes.

“As adults, we can relate to how the climate—the ‘how we feel around here’—of our workplace affects our attitude, even our ability, to do our jobs effectively,” said Metropolitan Regional Educational Service Agency (MRESA) Director Leigh Ann Putman. “This is just as true for students in the classroom and their ability to learn. That’s why MRESA is thrilled to lead the Early Learning Climate Prototype, building upon the existing systems already in place by our partners, to ensure that our youngest learners are provided with the most positive learning climate possible. RESAs across Georgia have always had strong partnerships with our K-12 school districts, and the opportunity to work with early learning centers extends our reach so we can help children be ready to learn from the minute they enter the classroom.”

Whitefoord Elementary School compares what they thought was PBIS to what they now know is PBIS

Whitefoord Elementary School compares what they thought was PBIS to what they now know is PBIS

Early Education Success through Positive Learning Climates is the prototype for what is possible through a safe, supportive, and positive Learning Climate—one of the four strategic pillars of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s common agenda.

Thanks to an investment by the David, Helen, and Marian Woodward Fund—Atlanta, and implemented by MRESA, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), the Prototype is a research-informed approach designed to teach teachers and staff how to use PBIS to improve the learning climate— an indicator significantly correlated with third-grade reading outcomes.

Dr. Lise Fox, professor of Dept. of Child and Family Studies at the University of South Florida, talks with early learning childcare centers about the Pyramid Model.

Dr. Lise Fox, professor of Dept. of Child and Family Studies at the University of South Florida, talks with early learning childcare centers about the Pyramid Model.

Working with the University of South Florida and renowned national leaders in both school-wide PBIS (implemented in K-12 schools) and program-wide PBIS, the pyramid model (implemented in early learning centers), the partners are creating a blended PBIS model tailored to the developmental stages that children move through during their first eight years. The prototype is focusing on two elementary schools and one “feeder” early learning center within Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb County Schools and Fulton County Schools:

  • Brookview Elementary (Fulton County Schools)
  • Childcare Network #50—Candler Road (DeKalb County)
  • Deerwood Academy (Atlanta Public Schools)
  • Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy (DeKalb County Schools)
  • Seaborn Lee Elementary (Fulton County Schools)
  • Sheltering Arms—Welcome All Road (Fulton County)
  • Toney Elementary (DeKalb County Schools)
  • Whitefoord Community Project, Inc. (Atlanta City)
  • Whitefoord Elementary (Atlanta Public Schools)
Cassa Andrews, PBIS program manager at DECAL, coaches McNair Discovery Learning Academy on early learning strategies for PreK—third graders.

Cassa Andrews, PBIS program manager at DECAL, coaches McNair Discovery Learning Academy on early learning strategies for PreK—third graders.

The childcare centers and schools participated in a three-day leadership team training over the past two weeks, led by staff from GaDOE, DECAL, and the University of South Florida. Leadership teams learned how to create and set universal expectations and rules across environments, as well as the importance of teaching children appropriate behavior through modeling and reinforcement.

“Positive school climate is enormously important, and we see over and over again that climate affects student achievement,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “High-quality PBIS training and implementation is an important step as Georgia’s schools work to address the issue of climate. I am proud of these schools and early learning centers as they work to improve the learning climate for students from the very start of their educational experience.”

Whitefoord Community Project, Inc. Childcare Center discusses action planning for determining program expectations and rules.

Whitefoord Community Project, Inc. Childcare Center discusses action planning for determining program expectations and rules.

Particular emphasis was placed on recognizing early learning as birth through third grade and the additional supports all children need throughout those crucial years. Throughout next school year, teachers in these grades will also be supported with additional social and emotional, developmentally appropriate classroom strategies to help them keep their students calm, engaged, and safe while learning in the classroom.  At early ages, when students don’t have language or a fully developed vocabulary, their behavior becomes their language.

“We are excited about the potential of this work to promote alignment of programs and services for children birth to third grade,” said DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs.

Whitefoord Community Project, Inc. Childcare Center representatives discusses action planning for determining program expectations and rules.

Whitefoord Community Project, Inc. Childcare Center representatives discusses action planning for determining program expectations and rules.

Throughout the year, childcare center and school teams will utilize data to track behavior incidents and adjust strategies as needed to help children with self-regulation skills and promote self-awareness.

Georgia is one of only a few states pioneering the blended PBIS approach birth through third grade and beyond.  Therefore, these sites are uniquely poised to serve as models throughout our state and perhaps the country showing how aligned positive learning climates can ultimately affect child/student engagement, teacher morale, and academic achievement.

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