Tokens for good behavior can lead to rewards at high school

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle Princeton High School Assistant Principal Emorie Colby gives a token to a student in the hallway at the school one day last week while complimenting the student for having a hall pass.

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
Princeton High School Assistant Principal Emorie Colby gives a token to a student in the hallway at the school one day last week while complimenting the student for having a hall pass.

The lower grades in the Princeton School District have been running programs for many years now where students or classes are rewarded for the largest accumulation of “Tiger Paw” slips or other objects that are handed out for good behavior.
The high school has done some forms of it in recent years but about a month it ramped it up by giving out quarter-size, orange plastic tokens. Staff members at the high school are asked to give a plastic token to a student when the student is following rules and/or exhibiting exemplary behavior.
Its all under the district’s PBIS program, which stands for positive behavioral Intervention and Supports. It’s actually a model used in thousands of schools in most of the United States. Websites on PBIS explain that teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is better than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding. As the OSEP technical Assistance Center website puts it: “The purpose of school-wide BPIS is to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm.
The high school has a team of staff members that make up a PBIS committee that includes activities director/assistant principal Darin Laabs. It sought input from students on what they would think would be the best reward for winning a competition among groups seeing who can collect the most PBIS tokens in a week.
According to Principal Barb Muckenhirn, the two things the students find the most rewarding is food, and the time to eat it. Therefore, the winning group for receiving the most tokens at PHS in a week, gets time off from class at the end of the school week, to come down to the cafeteria and have ice cream.
PHS choral director Mark Potvin, who is on the PBIS committee, also noted that research on shows that a consistent PBIS type of program is superior to one that just metes out punishments.
Muckenhirn talked to the school board about her school’s PBIS token program and how she has asked staff members to each give out five tokens per school day. Muckenhirn, during one day in March, said she had given out 25 that day.
Each week the makeup of the groups in the competition is changed. It might be groups based on what quarter of the year a student’s birthday is in, or it might be what grade they are in school. Administrators at PHS say the reason for changing the definition of the groups is to keep students from “gaming the system,” such as having a particular group storing tokens over time. Also, the idea is to make sure a complete cross section of students gets a chance to be rewarded, Muckenhirn said.
When the staff members give out the tokens, they also express what they appreciative about a student’s actions or behavior, which could be something as simple as not breaking the rule that bans wearing caps in school.
“It’s gone over way more positively with the students than I anticipated,” Muckenhirn said.

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