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Intellect

Schoolwide behavior screening could improve learning environment, BYU professor writes

Schools typically screen children with behavior problems to develop behavior modification plans that fit their strengths and weaknesses. An education professor at BYU suggests taking the same method that has proved successful for individuals and implementing it on a schoolwide scale.

Michelle Marchant's paper, out this month in the academic journal Preventing School Failure, explains that evaluating a school's strengths and weaknesses by looking at existing information can help schools choose a positive behavior plan that works for them.

"We propose that, just like we proactively screen kids that might need behavioral interventions, we should screen schools to identify what they need and the strengths that they have and build from that," Marchant said.

Screening a child might uncover that he or she has trouble concentrating for a long time and shies away from social interaction. This information can be taken into account when creating a plan to help him or her improve academically and socially.

Screening the school itself might find that assembly settings are too loud, that hallways after 3 p.m. are too crowded, or that a group of students needs to learn how to comply with teacher directions or accept feedback in a more appropriate manner. Knowing this can help schools choose a plan that addresses these areas of needs.

According to Marchant, implementing schoolwide screening would not be difficult because most schools already collect the necessary information. They just don't put it together to get the big picture.

"One of the benefits of the No Child Left Behind Act is that it encourages schools to be accountable with data," she said.

Marchant suggests that administrators combine this data with disciplinary referrals, surveys, focus groups, interviews, other records and direct observations to create a clear picture of where their school needs the most improvement.

"The biggest benefit of instituting a schoolwide screening process is that schools can align prevention and modification plans to meet their own needs," Marchant said.

Writer: Camille Metcalf

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