In a feat less than 30% of Indiana schools can claim, Slate Run Elementary achieved an “A” grade for the 2016-2017 school year. This is the second year Slate Run has earned both an “A” grade and the highest growth points in their District, with Conscious Discipline by their side every step of the way!
Slate Run Elementary is a School Family in New Albany, Indiana with 311 students, 53 staff members, a student mobility rate of about 50% and 75-80% free/reduced lunch. Last week, the Indiana Department of Education announced that Slate Run earned an “A” grade and the highest growth points in their District for the 2016-2017 school year. This is the second year in a row that Slate Run has achieved both of these distinctions!
Slate Run began its Conscious Discipline journey in April 2013 when their new Principal, Amy Niemeier introduced staff to The Story of Fern Creek to prepare them for the shift the school would undertake in the coming school year. At the time, Slate Run was plagued with falling morale, falling scores and days spent “trying to control the chaos” in Principal Niemeier’s words. The District closed four schools and Slate Run experienced an influx of students that immediately doubled the free/reduced lunch percentage. Students’ needs changed and the school’s approach needed to change if they were to succeed.
“All we could think about at the time was stopping behaviors and gaining control,” Principal Niemeier said. “In retrospect, it’s clear that our strategy was to react with fear-based measures and punishment, and it wasn’t working. Change is difficult, but we had a few staff members willing to try something different. Conscious Discipline helped them respond from a place of love with the goal of teaching. We implemented the Conscious Discipline structures for the staff and it carried over into the classroom. The shift went school-wide when the adults could feel and see the difference between love and teaching versus fear and punishment.”
“Feeling the difference the School Family made in our staff culture motivated us to implement in the classroom.”
– Principal Amy Niemeier
During the summer of 2013, Principal Niemeier sent the school counselor and Assistant Principal to the Conscious Discipline Summer Institute, where they met Master Instructor Amy Speidel. Amy kicked off the 2013-14 school year with a full day of professional development, and staff spent the year viewing and studying the Conscious Discipline Live DVD set (now the Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Schools and Homes e-learning course). The school climate began to shift almost immediately, and the referral numbers and test scores would soon follow.
“We began providing emotional support to students who had little or none at home. The coping skills they come to us with are often inappropriate and hurtful,” second grade teacher Aimee Bratcher said. “We are still learning Conscious Discipline as a staff and that helps us relate to the students. My biggest struggle was being imperfect in front of my students. I thought my role was to lead them flawlessly. After practicing Positive Intent with myself and giving myself permission to have ‘oops’ moments, it was easier to handle the students’ oops, too. It takes a lot of pressure off when you know you can all use ‘oops’ moments as learning experiences. There’s a sense of ‘let me help you learn how to do it better’ instead of ‘you’re going to pay dearly for responding inappropriately.’”
As staff implemented Conscious Discipline, referral numbers began to drop and test scores began to rise.
The year before implementing Conscious Discipline, Slate Run recorded 1,011 discipline referrals. That number dropped to 938, then 813 and finally to 793 last year. That’s a 22% overall decrease in referrals. If you look at the referral numbers for only the children who have progressed within the school throughout the four years with Conscious Discipline, the number of referrals among these children drops by 75%.
The state testing and school grade system underwent significant overhauls from 2013-2015, resulting in a “hold harmless year” and making comparisons difficult as the school vacillated between a B and a C rating. Slate Run’s scores then rose to an A grade for 2015-2016 and they maintained this A for the 2016-2017 school year.
Thanks to some diligent grant writing, Slate Run has been able to secure funds to send multiple staff members to the Conscious Discipline Summer Institute each year, attend 2-day workshops and host onsite events with Conscious Discipline Master Instructors. Dr. Becky Bailey also visited the school and Principal Niemeier attended the Summer Institute four times, including as a helper last summer. Monthly meetings with their internal Conscious Discipline Action Team help all staff members, including paraprofessionals and support staff, celebrate strategies that are working, problem solve difficult situations and learn new skills.
The staff lists mutual respect, support, empathy and feeling that they matter among their top results as they continue with their Conscious Discipline journey. For students, they list helping them grow both emotionally and academically at the top of their successes.
“The world is changing and continues to become more socially disconnected,” school counselor Danielle Christian said. “Children are increasingly unable to regulate their emotions, problem solve effectively and interact in a socially acceptable manner. Conscious Discipline gives us ways to change this and create a more connected, safe environment for students, staff and families.”
The life skills Conscious Discipline offers have become even more essential this year as Slate Run copes with the demands of a temporary location change.
“We moved the school to a temporary site this summer for the construction of a new school on our original site. This has proved to be very challenging for our staff and students; however, our Conscious Discipline skills and School Family structures have kept us working together and continuing to succeed. We are very proud of our referral reduction, our academic success and our School Family culture as a whole, and are confident that the effects of our work with Conscious Discipline will last.” Principal Niemeier concludes.