Pittsburgh schools survey shows impact of student conduct
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Improving student conduct isn't an easy road, but the latest survey of Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers shows it can make a big difference.
Pittsburgh Arlington PreK-8 had not only the largest improvement in educators' perception of student conduct but also the largest improvement in academic achievement on state tests, said Eddie Willson, director of operations, student support services, for the district.
When educators rate schools better for student conduct, Mr. Willson said, "Their academic achievement also tends to follow."
The results are from the third annual survey of teaching and learning conditions taken in April and May by 2,515 certified educators, 332 paraprofessionals and 101 early childhood/early intervention educators.
That amounts to 94 percent of the district's educators.
The survey was done in partnership with the district and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and administered by the New Teacher Center, headquartered in California.
The survey looked at time; facilities and resources; community support and involvement; managing student conduct; teacher leadership; school leadership; professional development; and instructional practices and support.
In the area of managing student conduct, the survey report noted little change from 2011 to 2012. Most of the change that did take place was between 2010 and 2011.
Mr. Willson noted two areas of improvement in student conduct: "a process exists for behavior support planning and problem solving," with which 73.5 percent of the educators agreed, and "options exist to allow classroom instruction to continue when problem behavior occurs," with which 67.3 percent of educators agreed.
He said those are two areas in which the district has made significant efforts.
He said school-based discipline committees now are data-oriented and work for solutions, whether it's an individual student or a problem that takes place at a certain time, such as at arrivals or dismissals.
He said additional training has been given to help teachers to redirect disruptive students, such as asking a talking student a question about the topic to get him back on task.
He said some schools also have set up options, such as Pittsburgh Perry High School which set up an intervention room where students who disrupted a class could go talk to another teacher and then get back to class sooner than if he had sat in the office waiting for attention.
Other efforts include having teaching and learning environment specialists -- educators who rally the school around fostering a positive environment -- in schools for two years. Ten schools still have such specialists. Five others still have learning environment specialists.
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said, "I think there's been a lot more effort put into focusing on student conduct in the school, which I think is great."
The results show persistently low numbers in some other categories of student conduct, such as 45.9 percent of educators agreeing "students at this school follow rules of conduct" and 52.9 percent agreeing "school administrators consistently enforce rules for student conduct."
The way students treat each other also is a concern, with only 50.6 percent of educators agreeing "students treat peers with respect in this school."
The district is about to embark on an anti-bullying campaign that includes a guide for teachers to create an anti-bullying culture in their classrooms. A guide for parents also will be developed.
Teachers and principals continue to have a substantial gap in perceptions.
While 44.2 percent of teachers agree that students follow rules of conduct, 91.4 percent of principals agreed.
While 66.1 percent of teachers agreed "school leadership makes a sustained effort to address teacher concerns about managing student conduct," 100 percent of principals agreed.
Ms. Esposito-Visgitis said, "It's very concerning that principals see things differently than people in the classrooms doing it every day. We need to get that closer together for the schools to move."
More data can be found at www.pittsburghteachingconditions.org
First Published October 13, 2012 12:00 am