US Department of Education Report: "Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline"

Resources to Help Schools and Districts Put "Principles into Practice"

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year ! ! !

This week, the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, respectively, jointly launched a new publication, "Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline" . In its Foreword, the following were noted:

  • Youths of color and with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by suspensions and expulsions.
  • Data from Texas in 2001 revealed that nearly 60% of the public school students studied were suspended or expelled at least once over a six-year period during their 7th to 12th-grade years, and 15% of those students were disciplined 11 or more separate times.
  • Another 2011 study found that 95% of out-of-school suspensions were for nonviolent, minor disruptions such as tardiness or disrespect.

Based on a review of the research, studies of successful schools, and expert discussions, the Report recommended three Guiding Principles--each with a series of Action Step. The Guiding Principles were:

  1. Create positive climates and focus on prevention;
  2. Develop clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address disruptive student behaviors; and
  3. Ensure fairness, equity, and continuous improvement.

As the Director of the Arkansas Department of Education's State Improvement Grant (SIG)since its inception in 2003, we have been funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education. As such, our work and successes have helped to contribute to the recommendations in this new Report.

Moreover, as Project ACHIEVE is the foundation of our SIG practices, we have tested and built a research and implementation foundation, over the last 25+ years, that has established the practices that will help schools and districts nationwide to accomplish the action steps outlined in the Report.

Below is a recent YouTube video (10 minutes) that outlines the components of our school-wide Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS/PBIS) system--as told by principals and teachers who have implemented over the past ten years.

Briefly, the five components of our multi-tiered PBSS/PBIS (which differs from all other PBIS models currently being used) are:

  • Staff, Student, and Parent Relationships that establish Positive School and Classroom Climates
  • Explicit Classroom and Common School Area Expectations supported by Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Skill/Self-Management Instruction (that are embedded in preschool through high school "Health, Mental Health, and Wellness" activities)
  • School-wide and Classroom Behavioral Accountability systems that include Motivational Approaches reinforcing "Good Choice" behavior
  • Consistency--in the classroom, across classrooms, and across staff, time, settings, and situations
  • Applications of the above across all Settings in the school, and relative to the Peer Group interactions (specifically targeting teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, and physical aggression)

Clearly, the components above directly correspond to the Guiding Principles from the federal Report and many of its Action Steps.

Resources Available to you Now: Moving from Principles to Practices

Relative to the practices to help address the principles, the Project ACHIEVE website ( has numerous FREE resources--especially in the "Products and Resources" sections to assist you in this important area.

While most of our resources are free, we also have some "pay" products that help organize the entire process (sorry-- we would love to give them away, but...). Three of them can be found elsewhere on this page. They include:

  • Our School Discipline/PBS Implementation Guidebook that describes the entire multi-tiered PBSS/PBIS implementation process implemented in 1000's of schools nationwide since 1990.
  • The Stop & Think Social Skills Program--an evidence-based program (for school and home) that teachers and support staff use to teach students (from preschool through high school) important social, emotional, and behavioral skills.
  • The Behavioral Matrix Guidebook that helps School Discipline Teams develop explicit grade-level classroom behavior management, accountability, and motivational systems so that staff can respond to inappropriate behavior in objective, fair, and consistent ways (thus, eliminating the disproportionality cited in the federal Report).

Please feel free to share this video and other materials with your colleaguess, education and community leaders, and parents across your district or state.

As you know, for our students, we only have one chance to "get it right." Let's embrace the principles in the federal Report, but let's implement field-tested practices that make it successful for all students.