On Faculty: PAR Discipline Management Model Getting Good Results Karen Fay -------------------------------------- School of Continuing Studies The chairs lining the wall in front of the principal's office are empty, which has not always been the case at Hammond Middle School in Columbia. "Last year, you'd see the chairs outside the front office filled with students waiting to see the administrators. It just doesn't happen now," says Virginia Charles, a PTA member with a daughter in the eighth grade. "We've seen a lot of growth in the past four years because of continuing development in the county, and our school is bursting at the seams," says Hammond's principal, David Oaks, who faces the challenge of moving 800 children through hallways designed for a maximum of 550. "With the additional students came new management challenges including student discipline, which needs to be managed effectively so as not to disrupt the entire student body in a potentially chaotic setting." To help stop problems before they begin, Hopkins professor Michael Rosenberg has been working with the middle school, as well as a number of other schools in Maryland, to train them in the "prevent, act and resolve" model for managing school discipline. The PAR model's approach focuses on bringing together teams of administrators, teachers and school support personnel to develop strategies that prevent the occurrence of troubling behavior among students; act, or respond to instances, when rules are followed or broken; and resolve the issues that may cause the unsettling behavior. Rosenberg, professor and chairman of the Department of Special Education in the School of Continuing Studies' Division of Education, developed the model five years ago from research focusing on inefficient learners--those students who have learning and behavioral problems or who have trouble mentally organizing what is taught in the classroom and, because of their frustration, usually cause the most disturbances. "The question that structured the research is, How do we best create positive, nurturing, structured environments to help difficult students?" Rosenberg says. "The model is a multifaceted response to dealing with the complex issues that face children today. We're beginning to understand how inefficient learners think differently than other students. The model draws together research on learning behavior modification, and violence prevention, into a unified process to help schools manage all students." Training for school administrators and teachers takes place during a three-to-five- day period. Participants begin by articulating a mission statement for their school. The group then turns to identifying rules, expectations, and procedures that will preempt problem behaviors. Finally, specific procedures are developed that encourage students to respond positively to the rules. "We, that is, myself and the doctoral students who work on continuing to develop the PAR model, provide the guidelines and parameters for the training session. The administrators and teachers fill in the details. The end result is a comprehensive plan unique to each school," Rosenberg says. A booklet outlining the model is developed by the teachers and presented to parents, new faculty and staff. During the first week of class, students are introduced to the new model and taken through the rules step by step. "The process makes it nearly impossible for any student to say, 'I can do this in Mrs. Smith's class, but not in Mrs. Jones' class. The classroom rules are uniform throughout the school," Rosenberg adds. "The PAR model is working for us because of the ownership and commitment of the faculty," Oaks says. "It's been particularly effective with our students who need a lot of direction." "I'm here on a regular basis," says Pat Baker, Hammond Middle School's PTA president who has a son in the seventh grade. "I've noticed a subtle, but substantial difference in the children's behavior. Other parents I've spoken with are thrilled." An initial evaluation has found that the PAR model for managing inappropriate behavior is working. Several of the schools that received training reported a 50 to 70 percent reduction in the number of suspensions and office referrals for the first quarter of the academic year. According to Rosenberg, the work is not completed. He recently presented the PAR model in a teleconference workshop broadcast out of Atlanta to more than 350 schools nationwide. "The program continues to expand," Rosenberg says. "This is only one part of a line of research that we in the Division of Education are involved in. In our collaboration with school districts we hope to improve the educational outreach for all students, particularly those who present challenging behaviors."
Go to Gazette Homepage