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Wilson Middle School

Grade Level
Middle School

WILSON MIDDLE SCHOOL in Appleton Area School District had been implementing PBIS at the universal level for several years when they experienced a noticeable increase in the number of students who were referred to the office. When staff disaggregated the data and examined it, they discovered that the majority of students with multiple referrals also had IEPs. The realization that the practices they had in place were not effective spurred the team into action.

To reduce referrals, the team wanted to change how they supported students with IEPs. This meant changing the behavior–not of the students, but of the adults in the building. “Student behavior will change when adult behavior changes,” said Scott Werfal, former principal.

The school began by deepening the collaboration between general education teachers and special education teachers. Special education teachers became active members of the leadership team and student study teams. Case managers are contacted first when considering a discipline referral. Knowledgeable of students’ circumstances, special education teachers partner with classroom teachers to strategize ways to meet a student’s needs.

Wilson Middle spent time ensuring their universal level of supports was working for students. The school invested in continual professional learning and had challenged individual staff mindsets through the use of strategic questioning. What did staff believe the expectations of behavior should be? What outcomes did staff want? What was their data revealing?

The school also wanted to address attendance issues that were uncovered by their data exploration. After creating an attendance team to monitor the data, the school began implementation of tier 2 supports, including student academic instructional groups (SAIG) and check in, check out (CICO).

“We have a lot of caring staff that will do just about anything for our students behaviorally and academically,” said Crystal Schroeder, school counselor.

Social-emotional lessons were embedded into their universal level of instruction. Two tools in particular, trauma-informed practices and restorative practices, helped teachers to adjust their approaches to be more effective and inclusionary. These tools helped staff understand their students and build better relationships.

Participating in restorative practice benefits students beyond managing a single incident. Special Education Teacher Doreen McCoy notes that students are learning life-long skills. “They learn how to communicate with others and to see other people’s points of view and perspectives,” she said.