November 3, 2021

Tips From an Educator on Creating a Powerful Behavior Rubric for Your School-Wide Culture System

We spoke with Vice Principal Melissa Lime about how her team developed a powerful behavior rubric for Freedom Crossing Academy
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When it comes to behavior management (PBIS or otherwise), students need clearly defined goals and expectations – that’s where a good rubric comes in. But developing an effective rubric is easier said than done: how do you distill everything you want to see in your school culture down to simple, actionable guidelines for both students and educators?

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We touched base with Melissa Lime, Vice Principal at Freedom Crossing Academy, to hear about how her team developed their winning rubric – FCA was recently recognized as a Resilience Model School by the Florida PBIS Project. Here are her tips!

1. Define your school's mission before you begin

Lime and her colleagues based their rubric development around the concept of alignment: they wanted to clearly define their school’s mission and create a rubric that complimented and supported the values that were central to their educational strategy. 

When we opened in 2018, we wanted to create a school culture that was extraordinary and different. We developed our school vision and mission together – and when we wanted to really nail down what our goals were going to be, we knew that had to be aligned with PBIS. We are a Capturing Kids Hearts school, so we have embedded some of those best practices in the rubric: the social contract, a family environment, positive language.

The Takeaway

Outline school culture and behavior goals before you dig into writing the specifics of the rubric – a focused approach keeps your rubric from becoming too unwieldy.

2. Clearly outline your expectations, but keep things simple

To make the rubric accessible for students and easy to follow for teachers, FCA developed two main guides that form the heart of their rubric: F.L.I.G.H.T. and the FCA Way.

Individual students earn points for exhibiting F.L.I.G.H.T. characteristics: Focus, Leadership, Imagination, Grit, Heart, and Teamwork. The FCA Way outlines expectations for the entire class: safety, commitment to responsibility and respect. This is our common language that we have at the school. 

By aligning everything together in the rubric, our students know what it means to be committed to Responsibility, for example. It’s clearly defined so the teachers can go in and model that and teach that behavior, and students can get recognized. It’s not subjective. It’s a measurable behavior that we can use to build an intervention plan or help with progress monitoring. You can use it in so many different ways.

The Takeaway

A good rubric keeps things finite and actionable. Start simple and add layers once you have a clear understanding of your rubric strategy. 

3. Collaborate with your team

Rubrics speak to the needs of staff as well as students – Lime consulted with representatives from different school departments to make sure that the rubric was practical for everyone.

You have to have a strong, innovative team. When I bring our PBIS team together, I have one representative from every grade level, an administrator, a guidance counselor, and resource teachers. We all come together from different backgrounds.

The Takeaway

Every educator in the building has a different perspective – collaboration yields well-rounded rubrics.

4. Get parents involved

Lime’s team wanted everyone in FCA’s school community to have a full understanding of the rubric and what role it played in developing culture and monitoring student progress. 

I did a training with parents – I went over the whole rubric. When they’re looking at the app, they are going to see the positive behaviors, but also some notifications if their kids are not meeting expectations. We don’t take points away but we track these instances as ‘Needs Improvement’ so I can run data and say, ‘Oh I’m noticing we really need to work on some safety.’ It’s a communication tool.

The Takeaway

Rubrics are the framework for communicating a child’s progress to their parents. Utilize the rubric to highlight successes and points for improvement.

5. Keep your rubric current

While rubrics are central to a good behavior management system, they aren’t set in stone. Embrace their flexibility – Lime recommends routinely checking in on its effectiveness and modifying to accommodate new goals and challenges.

Every year we’ll look at the rubric as a team and decide if the rubric requires any changes. I wouldn’t change it in the middle of the year, but at the end of the year, do a survey, get the teachers together, see what they feel is working or not working.

This year we did add extra to our rubric – our district is big on ‘Character Counts.’ The six pillars of character are Trustworthiness, Fairness, Caring,  Citizenship, Responsibility, Respect. A lot of that was already built into our rubric, but we aligned this new focus as well. So instead of doing monthly pillars, we are recognizing the six pillars of character every day, all day.  

The Takeaway

Check in periodically on the effectiveness of your rubric by listening to feedback from teachers and students. Sometimes all you need for success is a tweak or two!

How have you used LiveSchool to develop your school’s behavioral rubric? Share with us @whyliveschool on twitter!

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