Productive Learning Environments
School Climate Matters
As Georgia Appleseed disseminated the results of its research about student discipline to communities throughout the state, we learned it was important to present not only information about the challenges associated with exclusionary discipline but also to discuss alternative approaches that would keep kids in class while maintaining an effective educational setting.
In the last decade there has been a growing awareness that a supportive school climate is critical in effectively managing student behavior and enhancing academic performance. In Georgia, the state Department of Education and several school districts have embraced a productive educational climate framework called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (“PBIS”). The PBIS framework establishes a school-wide commitment to an approach that is premised on the need to teach students expected behavior, to positively reinforce good behavior, and to use critical discipline data to assess and manage the school’s approach to student discipline.
According to Georgia Appleseed’s Theory of Change, positive school climate is a powerful tool in addressing disproportionality in exclusionary discipline and in converting the school to prison pipeline to the school to success pipeline. Towards such ends, Georgia Appleseed is working with statewide and local stakeholders to promote the PBIS framework in public schools and in early education settings throughout Georgia.
Georgia Appleseed is a founding member of the Georgia Education Climate Coalition (“GECC”), a public-private partnership of state agencies, nonprofits, foundations, mental health providers and others, established in 2015. The GECC seeks to inform the education stakeholder community about the importance of educational climate in the K-12 system as well as in early learning settings. The GECC will also be a partner in efforts to address critical issues of equity in school discipline.
The promise of PBIS, in combination with restorative justice, social and emotional learning initiatives and other interventions, will only be realized if the framework is embraced at the local level. Georgia Appleseed is committing to working with local communities to lay the groundwork for education climate initiatives.
In 2013-14, Georgia Appleseed partnered with the Muscogee County (Columbus, Georgia) School District and the Georgia Department of Education in a successful effort to implement a pilot PBIS framework in a 10-school cohort in that district which commenced in the fall semester of 2014. In Bibb County (Macon, Georgia), Georgia Appleseed worked to help that school district effect a recommitment to PBIS which will be reflected by establishing the framework in all Middle and High Schools in the district in the fall of 2015.
Watch a 5 part series on Positive Learning Climates created by MRESA, Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), and the Georgia Department of Education; produced by Georgia Public Broadcasting