"What we do now is really figure out ways to support all kids for their social, emotional benefits. And we look at school discipline. We look at classroom management and we look at how kids and families are supported at schools for the social behavioral growth," said Professor Sugai.
Professor Sugai co-directs a national PBS Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, the center works with about 9,000 schools across the country. But he estimates about four or five times that number of schools use this approach.
Cromwell Intermediate is one. In this school you hear a lot about the “RAFT.”
"I'll demonstrate for you the RAFT,” offers third grade student Ryan Nur. "R," respect others, self and property. "A" always be under control. And always learn. "F" follow all directions, rules and procedures and "T" try your best at all times."
"What we have here is a RAFT contract and it's a contract where we expect everyone to act a certain way, parents who come in, teachers students and all staff members," said Principal Bo Ryan.
Professor Sugai says in essence positive environment make learning more efficient.
"Much of our focus is on creating positive school climates for all kids so we can do a better job working with individual students who might have more challenges," he said.
One way to assess a school is by asking the kids what’s expected.
“If they say things like no hitting, no guns no drugs then we know the emphasis is on the negative side. If they say one thing we really work on is being responsible in our school we know the staff, the family, and so forth is really communicating positive expectation,” Sugai said.
In Cromwell, the RAFT is an example of how positive behavior support is implement. Kids receive "caught being great" tickets when they demonstrate the RAFT.
"If you walk in the hallway good you can get a ticket from a teacher," said third grade student Noah Budzik.
"Everyone has tickets. Our custodians, our secretaries, our lunch people and everyone is on the raft,” said Principal Ryan.
Kids can use their tickets to buy items in the school store. Overall, it teaches them that good behavior is rewarded.
"You can't do any bad things. That' not acceptable in school," says Ryan Nur.
"It goes hand and hand. The behavior and the academics," said Principal Ryan. "It starts with a great positive environment.”