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8 Best Practices To Decrease Student Referrals and Teacher Burnout

Classcraft TeamApril 29, 2022


On March 3, we had the wonderful opportunity to co-host a presentation with Broadview Middle School at the 2022 North Carolina Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) conference. During the presentation, a panel of educators and behavior coaches from Broadview shared success stories of how they developed an innovative MTSS model for behavior management and student engagement at every grade level.

Download and read Broadview Middle School’s success story to learn more about how they did it.

The COVID curveball

Located in Burlington, NC, Broadview Middle School has a diverse attendance of 854 sixth- to eighth-graders, with 33% identifying as African-American,  55% as Hispanic, and 8%  as white. Their student body has some of the highest rates of office referrals and behavioral incidents in the Alamance-Burlington School System. As with any other school, Broadview’s need for student support only intensified as a result of COVID-19. “We needed to make a concerted effort to make sure that we found a way to re-engage students,” says Broadview Behavior Coach, JD Swajkoski. However, the need to support teachers during this time was equally important.

Battling teacher burnout

“During COVID, what we found is this new realm where our positions as administrators and educators are to make sure that students and teachers alike are successful,” says Swajkoski. Additionally, every time a student is removed from a classroom, their learning capabilities can be deeply affected. “We need to ensure that our teachers know how to engage those students as culturally responsive teachers. The students also have to understand how to communicate their needs. So we’ve been able to move with [the Classcraft] platform and reduce out-of-class times.” 

After implementing Classcraft’s modern technology into their PBIS strategies and MTSS interventions, Broadview was able to get teacher buy-in with a comprehensive onboarding process. They found that they were able to quickly create, access, and track student behavior data analysis to highlight and celebrate students for their successes, ultimately lowering referrals by 33% and cutting down work time on behavior by 80% in one year. Before long, the entire district wanted in on the success, deciding to expand Classcraft to all of its middle schools.

During the presentation, Broadview Middle School shared the best practices they used to create a positive school culture while fostering academic and relationship skills.

8 ways to develop healthy school culture for teachers and students

  • Support at every level: Broadview Behavior Coach, Lateia Kelly emphasized that suspensions increase the probability of repeated incidents — if a student gets suspended once, they’re likely to get suspended again. “[When] students are suspended for unruly behavior, they don’t build skills, the problem is not identified, and they lose valued instructional time because they’re either going home or [they’ve been given] in-school suspension,” continues Kelly. This is why Broadview has staffed academic coaches for MTSS  support and behavior coaches for each grade level. “We work with our students, staff, and community, and have a strategy for academic success through PBIS and behavior intervention,” says Kelly. 
  • Create a “Reset Room”: Teachers at Broadview have a space where they can bring a student who needs to be removed from a particularly difficult situation. This allows the student a chance to communicate their feelings and address the issue in a healthy way. “We have a ‘Reset Room’ that’s connected to our office where someone can take a child, or have a child sit in, and have [hands-on] things that will stimulate their brain. They can color, they can step and play on things. So it’s something that [allows them to] go in, calm themselves down, get themselves back together, go back into the classroom, and be successful” says Kelly.
  • Find a mentor: As Broadview students become more familiar with the resources and replacement behaviors that they can draw on, they can request to speak to their favorite teacher in the Reset Room when a problem comes up. “This is a trusted adult they feel can tell what is wrong with them and how they want to deal with it in this room. We also have papers to fill out for them to write down their feelings and things like that in it as well,” says Kelly.
  • Virtual celebrations: After professional development meetings designed to help students in hybrid learning settings, there was a general consensus that more inclusive practices were necessary for remote students. “Whenever students had a certain amount of points, we would provide them with bags and goodies for the kids who were at home. They would come in, or we would send out an email, and they would come to collect their reward,” says Kelly. Teachers adapted their lessons with online games and connected their PBIS process to better interact with virtual students through engaging activities, including Classcraft’s Boss Battles and Quests.
  • Use restorative practices: Building positive relationships with students is the key to any classroom and school success. “We consistently adapt to work what’s best for our students. When we see that something’s not working, what do we do? We change it up. What do we do when we see a lesson hasn’t been working? We go back and find a different way to approach that lesson to teach them so they can be successful,” says Kelly. “In administrative conferences, we focus on the implementation of restorative practices, speaking to students about their behaviors, not just scolding them about what they did wrong. So we’re trying to find out, ‘What’s wrong and why did they do it?’”
  • Create an open and safe space for teacher dialogue: Schoolwide support isn’t just needed for students — teacher support is also paramount to healthy school culture. “We have our grade-level meetings where teachers speak honestly with us and let us know what they’re feeling, how they’re feeling, and what we can talk about to change those situations within the classroom, as well as within the school environment,” says Kelly. While addressing current teacher challenges, Broadview also implements an “intentional” support system through professional development strategies for the future. “We want to ensure that teachers get a personalized approach to their professional growth,” says Broadview behavioral coach, Doretha Winstead.
  • Create balanced teacher schedules to avoid burnout: Grade 7 at Broadview has both a high incidence of behavior issues and the school’s highest number of first-time or early-career teachers. As a result, the teacher turnover rate at this grade level is high. “We have had to create a new scheduling system within our grade level,” says Kelly. They continued by developing schedules by teacher teams. “We have three different grade levels and we have ten teachers altogether. So teams one and three have different schedules than team two, which has the most students. We needed to adjust and make things work for our teachers, as well as our students because we didn’t want to have substitutes always in our classrooms because of the students. And, because of teachers being out, we didn’t want our students to suffer because of that.”
  • Create focused groups to set clear expectations: “We have small groups where we meet with our most challenging students. We work with them individually and give them counseling,” says Kelly.We also have ‘weekly Newscasts,’ which is a Zoom session and the teachers broadcast it on their SMART Boards. The students listen to what we expect them to have and the expectations for the week. We do this every Monday and the students know what’s coming up as well.”

The success of Broadview’s MTSS model is based on the philosophy of supporting both students and teachers. Establishing concrete support systems for educators and students that foster schoolwide positive relationships helps set clear expectations for everyone to show up for each other. For teachers, social emotional support is just as crucial as for students. “Disruptive behavior is due to escalated emotions. We all have escalated emotions. [If you’re a faculty member coming into work], you might have rolled out of bed, and your husband, wife, or significant other started an argument that you’ve brought to school. You don’t know what these kids come from a home with. So they might start misbehaving in school because of their emotions at home,” says Kelly. By helping teachers feel more supported, they can, in turn, provide a better ecosystem of support for their students.

Thanks to everyone at Broadview for sharing their experience and expertise at NCTIES 2022. Read their success story here.

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Broadview Middle School Case Study

School & District Leadership

The powerful impact of motivation in your PBIS program

How did Broadview Middle School lower their referrals by 33%?

Learn how
Broadview Middle School Case Study