August 13, 2019

What Is A Behavior Rubric (And Why Your School Needs One!)

The right behavior rubric can transform your school. Here are the basics to create your own.
LiveSchool 101: Happy Teachers, Engaged Students, and Better Data

Teachers are always looking for creative ways to encourage a room full of antsy kids to stay engaged in the lesson.(And reward those who do.) Enter the behavior rubric.

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There are plenty of student reward ideas out there to help schools encourage positive behaviors. But these one-off rewards fall short if they’re not paired with a school-wide behavior rubric. 

Consistency from class to class and adult to adult is key to a successful PBIS program. The behavior rubric provides that consistency for students.

If you’re interested in developing a behavior rubric (also known as behavior matrix) for your school, here are a few of the basics to help you get a big step closer to engaged and happy students. 

Students work at a table in the foreground, while a student is shown choosing a point from the behavior rubric on a smartboard in the background

What is a behavior rubric? 

A behavior rubric outlines the school’s core values, and identifies behaviors that support each value. For elementary and middle schools, there are usually a few key elements:

  • It’s typically in a table format to clearly illustrate which actions align with which values. 
  • Some rubrics organize behaviors by location, such as the classroom, hall, or playground. 
  • Some rubrics organize behaviors by category, such as Respectful, Responsible, and Safe. 
  • Behaviors may be listed by levels of achievement. For the behavioral expectation  “organization,” a clean desk might be a level 1. Helping the teacher clean after class might be a level 4 for the advanced organizers out there.

By identifying clear expectations for the whole school, you give students and teachers a shared reason behind their actions. 

How a behavior rubric relates to PBIS and MTSS

PBIS and MTSS are now familiar acronyms for many teachers. And a behavior rubric fits right in with both of these systems.

  • PBIS (or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) refers to any schoolwide system of teaching and promoting positive behaviors. 
  • A PBIS behavior matrix is essentially a behavior rubric, designed with positive behaviors in mind. 
  • MTSS, or a Multi-Tiered System of Supports, is a framework that allows teachers to use data to identify students who need additional behavioral guidance. 

A schoolwide behavior rubric helps teachers to implement a tailored behavior support system that fits their school’s needs and values. This format encourages teachers and administrators to think about specific actions they’d like to promote in the classroom, hallway, cafeteria, or even outside the school walls. 

A teacher runs a PBIS Reward store - with students lined up and one student choosing a reward

Incorporate the rubric into the school culture. 

A rubric in itself is nothing more than a chart of preferred behaviors and values. It’s up to teachers and staff to incorporate it into the daily routine. 

One way of doing this is to consistently reward students when you spot them waiting patiently in line, helping the new kid find their bus, or demonstrating any of the other coveted actions on your list. 

Erika Irwin, Assistant Principal of STEAMM Academy in Canton City, OH, helped support schoolwide behavior goals using the LiveSchool app, which provides a standardized method of rewarding specific actions. Once all grades were using the same reward system, they saw a dramatic difference. 

For us, it just re-emphasized the need for consistent, positive reinforcement, reminding them who they are, why they’re here, that they have a purpose.

With consistent rewards, the rubric became more than just a poster on the classroom wall. It was part of the school identity. 

How does a behavior rubric help students?

Every teacher understands the benefits of a peaceful classroom. But an effective rubric can also help students understand the reasons behind the rules, and create a sense of community and shared goals. 

Shauna Kreuger of Kingsway Elementary in Charlotte County, FL noticed a difference in their student body once they implemented a point system with LiveSchool to reward good behavior. 

The kids know what’s expected. When they come into classrooms, they’re working to earn those points and they know what’s going to earn them points.

They always knew they were expected to raise a hand and let others answer questions. With a standard reward system and behavior rubric, they understand why. A raised hand might be on the list of good behaviors that represent the school’s value of “respect,” and earns them points whether they’re in Math or homeroom.

Students dancing in a circle at a House party, with half of the students shown wearing an orange House shirt, and the others wearing a blue House shirt

The right behavior rubric will bring results. 

An effective rubric and behavior reward system can lead to some pretty big changes. Cherri Byford, a school counselor at Darby Junior High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, noticed that disciplinary actions went down over 60% once the school started consistently rewarding behaviors with LiveSchool. Fewer students require summer school and test scores have even improved. 

And at Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, D.C., school administrators saw a 40% drop in suspensions after supporting their behavior expectations with LiveSchool. They went from having one of the highest suspension rates in their district, to one of the lowest. 

But 7th-grade Assistant Principal Louise Lewis points out that the change went beyond numbers for Kelly Miller.

The piece that is most exciting for us as a school is being able to see the improvement in the overall culture and climate in the building.
Students raising their hands enthusiastically

What does your behavior rubric look like? Share your examples with us! Post a photo of your rubric on Facebook or Instagram and tag @whyliveschool. 

Interested in LiveSchool?

Let's chat about how LiveSchool supports your positive school culture.

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