Bullying is recognized as a prevalent problem within schools across the nation; so much so, that in 2006, a National Bullying Prevention Month (October) was established to unite communities nationwide to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.
The facts speak for themselves. Nearly one in three U.S. students in grades 6 – 10 are involved in moderate or frequent bullying either as perpetrators, victims, or witnesses/bystanders, according to studies. With factors showing a strong correlation between bullying, student behavior, and academic outcomes, it is more important than ever for schools to find an effective way to manage the learning environment to enhance student safety, and, ultimately, student success.
Here in the Garland Independent School District, we believe that establishing trust between students and educators through a safe environment and positive culture is vital for academic success. To help create a safe environment and improve outcomes for our students, we implemented a data-driven program that would not only identify and address bullying, but help prevent it before it starts.
Being One Step Ahead of Bullying
Garland ISD, an “urban suburban” district in the Dallas area, has a student population of 58,000 across 71 campuses. As the second-largest school district in Dallas County—and 12th-largest in Texas—the majority of our students are minorities within a population that tends to be very transient. With such a large district, we face many challenges, including having many students in the at-risk category.
Contributing to the transient nature of the student population, Garland ISD employs a “choice of school” program; allowing parents to select the campus their children will attend for the upcoming school year. This makes it even more difficult for teachers to establish relationships with students and parents, and for teachers to know and understand individual behaviors and academic tendencies.
These factors, paired with ubiquitous social media and the rise of cyber bullying, contributed to our growing urgency to establish a reliable and efficient way to access, identify and help change behavior, with the goal of building a stable learning environment for our students.
Identifying a Solution
In 2010, I led an initiative to identify a behavior tracking and management solution for our schools. We wanted to stay ahead of the curve and leverage new technologies available to help meet the needs of the administrators, teachers, and students throughout our entire district.
Enter: Review360. Pearson’s Review360 is a multi-tiered behavior management software solution that enables teachers to track behaviors and proactively address negative behaviors such as bullying, in order to effectively reduce their occurrence.
Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, we implemented a pilot program with 10 schools in the district, and gradually expanded the program’s use over the next two years until launching the full implementation in the spring of 2013. Currently, all of our teachers, principals, and administrators from Kindergarten through 12th grade are using Review360 with great success.
Stopping Bullying Before it Starts
Review360 has allowed Garland ISD to bring awareness to the issue of bullying throughout the district. Due to the process we have put in place, we are able to address bullying behavior and stop it before it becomes a problem.
The full-circle solution provides our educators and administrators with a tool to address behavior issues, including bullying. Professional development modules and best practices enable our educators to accurately identify and report bullying, which allows administrators to investigate every occurrence. The platform reports and tracks behaviors to provide a robust analysis that offers visibility into trends and problem areas on multiple levels—from an individual student to district-wide—to help us improve behaviors.
The information is also used to provide informative announcements and assemblies to educate students and teachers on the different types of bullying, whether it be in our hallways or online. Using the platform, Garland ISD is provided data to identify what types of bullying may be occurring, where it may be occurring, and in what sub-populations it is most prevalent. By automating the incident reporting process and having access to this specific data, we have truly been able to stay ahead of the curve in terms of what we can do address issues more effectively.
Improving Successful Outcomes for Learners
A true agent of change, Review360 positively impacted the entire district’s culture, as it enables us to bring bullying and other problem behaviors to the forefront. Teachers feel supported and empowered with the information it provides. Parents are able to see actual data and work directly with teachers to develop intervention plans to address issues. Administrators have data that helps them make informed decisions about school protocols and policies.
Throughout my experience in the Garland ISD, I have seen a direct correlation between academic success and behavioral success. We are better able to protect our students and establish a better foundation of trust.
John Poynter, Ed.D., currently serves as the Assistant Director for Student Services for Garland Independent School District in Texas. He has worked in public education for over 20 years, in several positions which include; teacher/coach, assistant principal to attendance administrator. The last eight years have been spent in central office administration focusing on Student Services.