BROCKTON (CBS) – An I-Team investigation into high crime rates in public schools has uncovered one elementary school bucking the trend with an innovative program teaching kids that being good is actually cool.
Every morning, students at the Arnone Elementary School in Brockton recite the school’s mantra: “As an Arnone student, I will show respect, responsibility, safety and kindness.”
These are words of hope in Brockton, a working class city where an I-Team investigation found the schools have the fourth highest overall crime rate among 138 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.
But at the Arnone, some special things are happening.
“It’s been monumental,” said principal Colleen Proudler, describing the change in her students since the school started a new program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.
“The number of office referrals and the number of minutes that were spent dealing with discipline as opposed to focusing on academics has really decreased,” Proudler says.
For starters, she said, every one of the 800 students knows the rules. They’re called the Arnone expectations: respect, responsibility, safety, and kindness.
It’s an effort to instill values and positive behavior, and reminders are everywhere. Posters trumpet “Good Citizens,” “Citizen of the Month,” and “Rules to Live By.”
And then there’s the all-important “tiger paws.”
“When an adult, any adult, sees a child making a good choice — walking in the hall, holding the door open — we give them a tiger paw,” Proudler said.
More good deeds, and classrooms earn “team tigers” and “glitter paws,” and eventually prizes like movies with popcorn and pizza parties.
“The important piece of this isn’t so much the prize,” Proudler said. “It’s the recognition of you did something appropriate, you did something good.”
School counselor Kristin McKenna showed us a computer program which sorts every episode of bad behavior, allowing the school to identify troublesome patterns and address them.
For example, McKenna said, “There was a big spike in infractions during recess so we just put some interventions in place.”
Said Proudler: “Over the course of the last 15 months since the program really launched we have seen a huge change. It’s cool now to be good.”
In the last year, the number of disciplinary incidents at the Arnone school has dropped by more than 50 percent.
That’s no small feat, given that Arnone serves the Central Zone in Brockton, the poorest section of the city.
Ninety-three percent of its students are eligible for free or discounted lunches.