A new reward for students improves behavior

Assistant principal of P.S. 72, Joyce Wolf, explains to students how to use their reward ‘bee bucks’ and all the prizes showcased in the display. Photo by Amanda Marinaccio

Bronx schools begin to find new and inventive ways to improve the attitude and behavior of their students to help brighten their future.

The positive behavior interventions and supports, or PBIS, adopted by P.S. 72 is a national behavior improvement initiative that implements a school-wide reward system to encourage better behavior and learning.

“We really wanted to change the mindset of the students and staff,” said Melissa Beatty, P.S. 72 school counselor for pre-K through second grade, “instead of focusing on the negative behavior and things kids do, we focus on the positive and create a reward for good kids.”

PBIS began for P.S. 72 last year as a trail period. For the 2007-2008 school year classes, as a group, were awarded ‘bee bucks.’ These bee bucks were awarded by any staff member that is not a classroom teacher, for following the rules behind ‘Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful.’

“We wanted to get the kids to work together so the kids learn how to cooperate with one another,” said Beatty.

According to Beatty, there is a matrix set up for each area of the school. These are the designated rules and codes of conduct to be followed in the halls, cafeteria, classroom, schoolyard, etc. By abiding by these standards, staff awarded classes the bee bucks.

This year, P.S. 72 took PBIS even further to allow for individual achievement bee bucks.

“With the classes it hit about 80% of our kids, but some of our students wanted individual recognition,” explains Beatty.

For the class rewards, each Friday the bee bucks are tallied and on Mondays a winner is announced. The winning class is granted one free period, such as movie period or art period.

For the individual bee bucks, students have the opportunity to save them up to earn different prizes available in the prize shop. Prizes can cost anywhere from 1 to 50 bee bucks, and varies from school supplies such as pencils, folders, or notebooks, to more playful items such as hacky sacks, basketballs, or footballs.

“The program is amazing, in all aspects of the school there is a clear change for the positive,” said Jason Martinez, special education teacher, “even seeing them encourage each other since they are aware of the new expectations we have set for them.”

The school has thus far spent about $1,000 worth for prize items, and has a budget of $4,000 for the school year. The prizes come from a range of vendors, and donations from various organizations, such as Cross Town Diner gift certificates, Commerce Bank Frisbees, and Capital Shield cups.

“There is a pocket chart in each classroom with each kid’s name,” stated Martinez, “its also the idea of learning to save money. I spoke to my class about depositing and withdrawing money. This is not only for behavioral improvement, but it’s also academic. It is important for the kids to learn to save.”

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