Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness, and School Discipline and Disproportionality

Building Strong Schools to Strengthen Student Outcomes—A Summer Review of Previous Blogs (III of IV)

Dear Colleagues,


As our long, hot summer continues, I hope you are doing well.

If you keep up with my Blogs, you know that I am devoting my “Summer Series” to helping you to read, re-read, or re-conceptualize my most-popular Blogs by organizing them in a thematic way.

To be more specific, I have reviewed and organized virtually all of these popular Blogs (available to over 250,000 educators across the nation) into four clusters:

  • School Improvement, Strategic Planning, and Effective School and Schooling Policies and Practices
  • The New Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA), and Multi-Tiered and Special Education Services
  • Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness, and School Discipline and Disproportionality
  • School Climate and Safety, and School Discipline and Classroom Management

The Summer Series began on June 17 focusing on the Blogs that broadly addressed School Improvement.

The Series continued on July 1 with a Blog on ESEA/ESSA and Multi-tiered and Special Education Services.

The Series will conclude on July 29 with a synthesis of my School Climate, Discipline, and Classroom Management Blogs.

But today, this message discusses my past Blogs addressing “Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness, and School Discipline and Disproportionality.”

Below, I provide you with the Dates and Titles of past Blog messages in this cluster—so you can look up and read at your “summer leisure” those that particularly interest you.

In addition, I continue (immediately below) the discussion—begun in the June 17 and continued in the July 1 blogs—of the essential elements of Project ACHIEVE ( The first installment discussed an overview of Project ACHIEVE, while the second installment addressed Project ACHIEVE’s goals and model.

Briefly, Project ACHIEVE is the evidence-based national model school improvement program (as designated in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—SAMHSA) that I have developed over the past 30 years, and that is the foundation behind my thinking, writing, and practice.

Project ACHIEVE components have been implemented in “Great to Greater” through “Needs Improvement” preschools through high schools nationwide—as well as in alternative, residential treatment, juvenile justice, special education, and other specialized school centers.

Today, I will provide a brief description of the first four of the seven interdependent evidence-based components that guide Project ACHIEVE’s school improvement process.

In total, Project ACHIEVE’s seven interdependent components are:

  • Strategic Planning and Organizational Analysis and Development
  • Multi-tiered Problem Solving, Response-to-Intervention, Teaming, and Consultation Processes
  • Effective School, Schooling, and Professional Development
  • Multi-tiered Academic Instruction linked to Academic Assessment, Intervention, and Achievement
  • Multi-tiered Positive Behavioral Support/Behavioral Instruction linked to Behavioral Assessment, Intervention, and Self-Management
  • Parent and Community Involvement, Training, Support, and Outreach
  • Data Management, Evaluation, and Accountability

The First Four Project ACHIEVE School Improvement Components

Project ACHIEVE is an innovative school reform and school improvement program that has been implemented in schools and school districts in every state in the country since 1990. To date, one or more of its components have been presented to thousands of schools nationwide—in schools ranging from urban to suburban to rural, and from the lowest performing to the highest performing schools in the nation.

At its core, Project ACHIEVE provides implementation blueprints that are based on research-proven and empirically-demonstrated effective practices woven together into an implementation process that works.

Initially, we work with schools to complete a comprehensive needs assessment and resource analysis to determine their current needs, the approaches they are using that are working, the gaps that are preventing them from improving further, and the strategic goals and outcomes that are indicated or desired.

Below are brief descriptions of the first four Project ACHIEVE components:

The Strategic Planning and Organizational Analysis and Development Component

This component initially focuses on assessing the organizational climate, administrative style, staff decision-making, and other interactive and interpersonal processes in a school. Activities then move into identifying and reinforcing, or establishing and implementing the organizational policies, procedures, and cyclical approaches that support the academic and social-emotional/ behavioral success of all students.

The ultimate “product” of this component are three- and one-year School Improvement Plans that help schools build capacity and autonomy, identify and focus resources, facilitate stability and sustainability, and realize student, staff, and system success.

The Multi-tiered Problem Solving, Response-to-Intervention, Teaming, and Consultation Processes Component

This component focuses on consistent, school-wide data-based, functional assessment, problem-solving approaches that all staff learn and use when developing effective instructional processes. Activities here also address students who are not responding to effective classroom instruction and behavior management—leading to needed strategic or intensive evidence- or research-based instruction or interventions.

This “Response-to-Instruction-and-Intervention” element emphasizes a “problem-solving, consultation, intervention” mode of operation that directly contrasts with past “wait-to-fail” and “refer-test-place” approaches, and it is applied with students experiencing academic and/or behavioral concerns.

This component is largely implemented through our proprietary building-level SPRINT team (School Prevention, Review, and Intervention Team) process that involves multidisciplinary professionals who help provide early intervention services, as much as possible, in general education classrooms.

The Effective School, Schooling, and Professional Development Component

This component focuses on processes that ensure that effective and differentiated instruction, and effective and positive behavior management occurs in every classroom for every student. This involves all teachers, administrators, related service professionals, and other support staff in a school. Anchoring the activities in this component is effective professional development that targets specific areas of knowledge and skill.

Effective professional development occurs, formally and informally, every day for every staff person in a school—as they engage in systematically planned and implemented programs and processes geared toward increased knowledge and understanding, enhanced skill and skill-application, and eventual independent confidence and competence.

This occurs through in-service instruction, and a clinical supervision approach that involves modeling, guided practice, informed feedback, planned applications, and the transfer of training. Ultimately, as with other Project ACHIEVE components, the primary goal is to maximize students' attention to task, academic engaged time, positive practice repetitions, and academic and behavioral achievement.

The Academic Instruction linked to Academic Assessment, Intervention, and Achievement Component

This component focuses on positively impacting the “Instructional Environment” in every classroom within a school. The Instructional Environment consists of three interdependent domains: Teacher-Instructional processes, Curriculum-focused processes, and Student Learning processes. Critically, this component initially addresses the presence of effective, differentiated instruction for all students, ongoing progress monitoring, and evaluations that tracks students’ mastery of academic material over time.

When students are not progressing or mastering curricular content or skills, functional, curriculum-based assessments are conducted whereby teachers identify and analyze (a) relevant curricular and instructional variables and their relationship to student achievement outcomes; (b) assess curricular (i.e., scope and sequence) placement and performance expectations and outcomes; and (c) complete curricular task analyses and student mastery checks. These diagnostic assessments eventually are linked to strategic interventions that use, as much as possible, direct instruction and mastery-focused strategies.

Students’ Mental Health Status and Wellness, and School Discipline and Disproportionality

While the relationship between students’ mental health and wellness is discussed frequently in our professional (and popular) press, their connection with students’ social, emotional, and behavioral interactions is often missed. The same is true relative to national reports and research on school discipline and the disproportionate referrals of students from minority backgrounds and with disabilities, respectively, to the principal’s office (and beyond) due to misbehavior.

Over the past three years, I have written a number of Blogs critiquing policy-levels “fixes” in the areas of school discipline and disproportionality that (a) ignore the psychology of human behavior, and (b) do not discriminate between students’ with discipline problems and students with situational, disability-related, or other problems. I have also discussed a number of band-wagons (e.g., mindfulness and trauma) that educators need to be wary of.

Below is a list of the Dates and Titles of the Blogs addressing topics in these areas. To find the Complete Blog Cited Below:

Here are the Past Blogs:

School Discipline and Disproportionality

May 14, 2017: The Endrew F. Decision Re-Defines a “Free Appropriate Public Education" (FAPE) for Students with Disabilities: A Multi-Tiered School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management Model to Guide Your FAPE (and even Disproportionality) Decisions (Part III)

February 19, 2017: Federal and State Policies ARE NOT Eliminating Teasing and Bullying in Our Schools: Teasing and Bullying is Harming our Students Psychologically and Academically—Here’s How to Change this Epidemic through Behavioral Science and Evidence-based Practices

November 13, 2016: Beating Kids in Schools: How Corporal Punishment Reinforces Bias, Violence, Trauma, Poor Social Problem-Solving, and the Fallacy of Intervention. . . The Alternative? Eliminate Corporal Punishment by Preventing its Need, and Implementing Interventions that Actually Change Student Behavior

September 25, 2016: U.S. Department of Education Reminds Educators about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for Students with Disabilities: But. . . Watch Out for Their Recommendations and References

August 20, 2016: From One Extreme to the Other: Changing School Policy from “Zero Tolerance” to “Total Tolerance” Will Not Work. . . Decreasing Disproportionate Discipline Referrals and Suspensions Requires Changing Student and Staff Behavior

June 21, 2015: School Disproportionality and the Charleston Murders: Systemic Change vs. State Statutes

March 15, 2015: Restorative Practices and Reducing Suspensions: The Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

September 21, 2014: Minneapolis Superintendent Bans Most Suspensions for their Youngest Students: What Districts Need to do Instead of Suspending (Young) Students

September 6, 2014: New Superintendents’ Survey: Suspensions Do NOT Change Behavior— What does?

April 6, 2014: Preschoolers Most Suspended Age Group: New Report and What It Means for You

March 9, 2014: Approaches to Eliminate Disproportionality: New Study Reinforces State-wide Student Discipline Inequities

Student Mental Health Status and Wellness

June 28, 2016: ADHD Students in Schools: New CDC Data and Their Implications for Intervention

May 1, 2016: Parents and Students in Jail: How do Schools Support Students with Parents in Jail, and Students who--Themselves--are Incarcerated?

February 13, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs (Part II). More Bandwagons that Need to be Derailed?

January 30, 2016: Reviewing Mindfulness and Other Mind-Related Programs: Have We Just Lost our Minds? (Part I). Why Schools Sometimes Waste their Time and (Staff) Resources on Fads with Poor Research and Unrealistic Results.

October 11, 2014: Another Federal Push… What’s the Deal with Trauma Sensitive Schools?

August 17, 2014: Beginning the New School Year on the Right Foot: Why Classroom Routines, Behaviorally Disordered Students, and the Brain Matter

July 22, 2014: Student Mental Health and Wellness: What the New RWJ Foundation Report Means for You


I hope you find these Blogs important and meaningful to your work.

Meanwhile, I always look forward to your comments. . . whether on-line or via e-mail.

If I can help you in any of the areas discussed in this and these Blog messages, I am always happy to provide a free one-hour consultation conference call to help you clarify your needs and directions on behalf of your students, staff/colleagues, school(s), and district.

Please accept my best wishes for the continuation of your safe, restful, and fun summer !!!