AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Examples from the Field

The most effective programs use some form of behavior modification administered in a consistent and caring manner. As a general rule, when students receive behavior interventions at an earlier age, these interventions are more effective than waiting until behavior problems become deeply ingrained.

For some students, the teaching of social skills may be an important component in learning appropriate behavior. Such programs teach students who may come from chaotic home environments new ways of interacting with others and resolving problems. Many social skills programs are designed to be delivered to the entire student body rather than to students identified in most need of such training. Before adopting such a schoolwide program, school officials should carefully evaluate the need for all students to receive such training against the instructional time that will be spent delivering it.


The AFT state affiliate in Texas worked with the Legislature to pass the Safe Schools Act, which allows a teacher to remove from class a student: (1) who repeatedly interferes with the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with students or with the ability of the student's classmates to learn: or (2) whose behavior is so unruly, disruptive or abusive that it seriously interferes with the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with students in the class or with the ability of the student's classmates to learn. If a student is removed under this provision, the principal may not return the student to the same teacher's class without the teacher's consent unless a placement review committee determines that such placement is the best or only alternative available.

Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio, has pioneered a highly successful approach to the challenge of modifying problem behavior. The contract between the Toledo Federation of Teachers and the Toledo Public Schools establishes a Behavior Specialist Program. Three teachers who are specialists in behavior management are available to respond to student referrals from classroom teachers. A behavior specialist consults with the teacher, reviews school records, observes the student at work and, with the teacher, develops interventions appropriate for the student. The specialist and teacher then meet with the student to explain the interventions and begin implementing them. They then contact the parents, any social service agencies that are involved and, if necessary, physicians to involve them in the process and share pertinent information.

The specialist meets on a weekly basis with the teacher and student to monitor the interventions and make modifications as needed. They then contact the parents to update them on the status of the interventions and share other relevant information regarding both behavioral and academic performance. If the student does not respond to the interventions, the student will be referred to the School Assistance Team for further evaluation to determine if a different educational program/ setting would better meet the student's behavioral or academic needs.

According to yearly district evaluations of the Behavior Specialist Program, many students respond positively to the behavioral interventions. Their teachers are able to teach again, and the students experience behavioral and academic success in their current educational settings. This kind of specialized help is necessary if regular classroom teachers are to focus their efforts and talents on teaching the many, rather than just disciplining the few.