Halls are quieter and tardiness at Evanston Township High School has decreased over the past two years because of conversations initiated through the Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), Assistant Superintendent/Principal Oscar Hawthorne told the District 202 Board at its Feb. 25 meeting.

A student must be in the classroom when the period begins, even if he or she is not quite seated, in order not to be considered tardy. Being in the hall or on the way to class when the bell rings constitutes tardiness, Mr. Hawthorne said.

“It had become part of the culture of the building not to be in class on time,” Mr. Hawthorne said, adding that the school is “in a better place now than it was three years ago.”

Student School Board member Sean Pitt said he thought students’ “lackadaisical attitude” had changed over the years and that interest in classwork is increasing: “The most important thing is that students are much more likely to rush to class and get there on time, when they are interested in the class.”

Mr. Hawthorne attributed the change to efforts that began in 2010 to address school climate and specific disruptive behaviors. “We partnered with Loyola University of Chicago, which gave us a foundation to approach [these things] at ETHS. They gave us a framework,” he said. A PBIS team of about 45 continues to work on ETHS’s three Rs – respect for self, respect for others and respect for community.

Mr. Hawthorne, Taya Kinsey and Maria Zarate-Ortega, two co-chairs of the school’s 45-member PBIS team, gave a brief update to the Board at the Feb. 25 meeting. PBIS, Ms. Kinsey said, is a research-based framework for decision-making “to maximize school behavior and academic performance.” PBIS is used in various forms nation-wide and has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education, she said.

Ms. Kinsey said three aspects of PBIS, centered on the three Rs, are collaborative staff and student involvement, an emphasis on positive staff/student relationships and the use of data to monitor progress.

On Feb. 15, about 10-15 minutes of class time at ETHS was devoted to students’ and teachers’ taking part in conversation called “I Commit,” the PBIS team reported. Students and staff discussed what “mutual respect” meant, touching on students complaints of “disrespect and sarcasm” toward students from some staff members as well as students’ feelings that “many staff members care about the students by getting to know them.”

Ms. Kinsey said the PBIS team would return at a later date with a more detailed report for the Board.