Safe Schools Initiative Wins Golden Bell

Long Beach Unified School District’s Safe and Civil Schools Initiative has won the prestigious Golden Bell Award, the highest honor from the California School Boards Association. The award will be presented Dec. 1 in San Diego. Ever since the Safe and Civil Schools Initiative began here in 2003, it has helped to improve student behavior at dozens of schools, allowing for a more business-like atmosphere that is conducive to learning. More than 40 schools have participated, and the effort is expanding. “Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to make this initiative a statewide model,” said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools for the Long Beach Unified School District. “Increasing safety and civility in our schools is a vital part of our efforts to serve every student. This initiative has achieved dramatic results.” The Golden Bell Awards promote excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. To win the award, applicants must demonstrate that the program has made a difference for students, and that it is exemplary, innovative and sustainable. After screening of applications, a reviewer visits to see the program first-hand. Reviewer William Gutierrez, who visited Hill Classical Middle School, called the program impressive and innovative. “I really enjoyed it,” said Gutierrez, president of the Downey Unified School District Board of Education. “I was able to observe passing period, with teachers in the hallway greeting students. I liked the increased interaction between teachers and students.” The initiative in Long Beach began with 21 schools in 2003, expanding to 20 more schools in 2005. Fourteen more schools will participate starting in January 2008. Already, many schools have dramatically reduced tardies and other behavior problems, recapturing precious classroom instruction time. Cabrillo High School, for instance, saw a 35 percent reduction in tardies in one year. Franklin Classical Middle School experienced a 55 percent reduction in tardies. Jefferson Middle School saw a 70 percent decrease in suspensions. Marshall Middle School achieved a 79 percent reduction in tardies and a 61 percent decrease in suspensions. Each participating school has a Safe and Civil Team that receives training from the school district, using proven methods developed by educational trainer Randy Sprick. See www.safeandcivilschools.com for more information. These school teams implement the strategies with teachers. Training topics include improving safety, effective supervision in common areas, developing a system for responding to discipline problems, increasing effectiveness of in-school suspension, verbal de-escalation, and classroom management procedures and routines. The Safe and Civil Teams at each school use data to monitor progress and adjust procedures based on the needs of the school. Effective classroom management is a cornerstone of the Safe and Civil Schools model. Teachers are provided a classroom model to decrease behavior problems in class and prevent escalation of negative student behavior. These techniques are derived from research on how teachers manage student behavior and enhance student motivation. This model was implemented at Hill Classical Middle School, where 100 percent of students reported receiving positive feedback from a teacher within a two-month period. Reviewer Gutierrez said he was so impressed by the classroom management aspect that he would like his school district to consider it. With the latest award, the Long Beach Unified School District now has won six Golden Bells, including awards for Community-Based English Tutoring, school uniforms, an authors festival, beginning teacher support, and Project PEAKS training for teachers of English. The nonprofit CSBA represents more than 1,000 school districts and county offices of education throughout California.