Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 2 – 2020-21
Open Sourcing to Support Students
Addressing student discipline using a team approach
Brett Christopher
Principal, Showalter Middle School, Tukwila SD
Todd Hilmes
Principal, Naches Valley Middle School, Naches Valley SD
Dave Riddle and Megan Mauro
Principal and Assistant Principal, La Venture Middle School, Mt. Vernon SD
Nick Reykdahl
Assistant Principal, Tumwater Middle School, Tumwater SD
David Cooke and Dr. Michelle Massar*
Principal and Assistant Principal*, Jemtegaard Middle School, Washougal SD
Evaluation Criteria: Planning with Data, Improving Instruction, Managing Resources
Open sourcing has become an integral part of software development as concerned, creative people come together to solve a problem. Their mission is not to make a profit but to serve their community by making or improving a product to serve others. As our work as principals becomes more complex with COVID-19, social changes and budgetary cuts, “open sourcing” among educational leaders will be necessary across the state.
Over the last year, seven middle school administrators and associated staff from across the state have been working together to change their approach to supporting students with disciplinary concerns. The schools involved are:
  • Jemtegaard Middle School (Washougal)
  • La Venture Middle School (Mt.Vernon)
  • Naches Valley Middle School (Naches Valley)
  • Showalter Middle School (Tukwila)
  • Tumwater Middle School (Tumwater)
Their work has been supported by the AWSP Networked Improvement Community (NIC) grant. The five schools believe that the purpose of discipline has been lost. Discipline has been referred to in a punitive manner as “teaching students a lesson.” Students are often not given opportunities to learn and grow from difficult classroom situations. Punishment has replaced behavior intervention leading to high exclusion rates, thousands of valuable learning minutes out of the classroom and rising numbers of disenfranchised students. The NIC team is looking for a path that could support students in their most vulnerable moment, teaching them important skills such as problem-solving and empathy and to keep them in the classroom. They are all committed to putting learning opportunities back into disciplinary moments to the benefit of the student, staff and parents.
The team started their work together using the 'The Student Support Process' framework developed by David Cooke and Dr. Michelle Massar at Jemtegaard Middle School. The premise behind the Tier 1 process is to match the infraction with the appropriate response. If the student concern could be addressed before a student escalated then the chances of them maintaining composure, healing the relationship with their teacher and going back to class were greatly increased.
The Student Support System is a simple one-page template.
Encouraged by the results of Jemtegaard Middle School in 2019-20, the four other schools in the grant team began trying the SSP. Thus, the NIC grant team was formed. The team decided that while the core features of the process remained the same, each school would try different ways to incorporate the process in their own building. This included methods of:
  • Collecting data
  • Sharing data with staff
  • Sharing data with students
  • Support staff determination
  • Impact on various demographics
  • Parent communication
  • Responses in the classroom prior to calling for help
  • Student, staff and parent surveys
Our students have experienced great loss and trauma due to COVID, along with many social changes in our nation. While we cannot control the outside factors that impact our students, we can certainly focus on our response.
The NIC grant allowed administrators to visit the NIC grant members’ schools. In January, the team visited Tumwater Middle School. They were able to meet with staff and students to listen to positive and concerns with the system. A second visit was scheduled for Showalter Middle School in Tukwila in April, but this was cancelled due to COVID-19.
In September, the team met again virtually to review their data after a year and found some encouraging results which included:
  • Significant decrease in major referrals
  • Significant decrease in instructional minutes lost
  • Support for process by teachers
  • Reduced expulsions
The team decided to focus on key areas this year to create fidelity in the system including:
  • Common methods to collect data
  • Focus on key groups to assess data on (e.g., diversity, new students, decrease of students who have high infraction rate in the start of the year)
  • Student and parent surveys
  • Efficient processing of data
  • Strategies to support students who have to come down to the office
  • What constitutes a phone call to the office
The return to regular school, whenever that may be, might be the most difficult transition ever. Our students have experienced great loss and trauma due to COVID, along with many social changes in our nation. While we cannot control the outside factors that impact our students, we can certainly focus on our response. For the NIC team, the response to struggling students and subsequent discipline issues is a top priority. The NIC team is looking for more schools to be a part of their Student Support Process “Open Sourcing” team. We welcome the opportunity to “open source” with you to support all students in our great state.
*Title while the article was written.
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Washington Principal | Volume 2 – 2020-21