These discrepancies in expectations result in punitive disciplinary responses such as detention, suspension, and expulsion. Such practices are often racially disproportionate and fail to achieve the intended goal of promoting prosocial choices. School social workers can have a central role in realigning student perceptions of appropriate school behavior, while facilitating teachers' understanding of students. However, literature on school-based interventions reveals few intervention strategies targeting individual students displaying behavioral problems.
Our research tested the effectiveness of an intervention to improve student behavior and close gaps in teacher-student perceptions of school rules. The intervention consists of (a) cognitive behavior techniques, (b) formative assessments guided by individualized data, and (c) self-monitoring strategies to help students internalize behavioral change.
Methods: The Student and Teacher Realignment Strategy (STARS) was pilot tested over 36 weeks using a single-subject design with a convenience sample of 10 special education middle-school students. Students and teachers recorded their perceptions of student compliance with five classroom behavior norms or rules. School social workers prepared students to meet weekly with their teachers to identify strengths, challenges, and goals for improvement. Students led brief conferences with their teacher and the social worker to formalize data-driven goals and strategies for improving behavior. Behavioral change was examined for visual, clinical, and statistical significance using graphs, a proportion-frequency procedure, the two-standard-deviations test, and t-tests.
Results: Graphs indicated all students demonstrated improvement, including more stabilized behavioral patterns. In addition, a proportion-frequency test indicated significant behavior improvement for 90% of students; a more robust two-standard-deviations test indicated statistically significant improvement for 40% of students (with effect sizes of 2.0 or greater). T-tests reveal significant reductions in office referrals from baseline (M=22.20; SD=8.92) to intervention (M=12.10; SD=7.87; t(9)=2.26, p<.05).
Conclusions & Implications: The results of the current pilot study suggest STARS may be an effective and feasible school-based strategy for students who display chronic problem behaviors. These efforts encourage positive approaches to address disruptive behavior; have particular importance for guiding student interventions; provide a feasible alternative to reactive, punitive measures which fail to encourage positive behavior; and address the lack of individual interventions for students with chronic behavioral concerns currently available in SWPBS research. The STARS intervention described here tests a data-based self-management strategy for guiding students to internalize change rather than relying on external rewards or consequences to shape behavior. The current study tested STARS in special education classrooms, however, STARS holds promise for broader use in all classrooms. Future research should use a larger, random sample of students in both special and regular education settings to further test the intervention's effectiveness and the mechanisms through which it works.