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Does rewarding good behavior lead to better grades? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Does rewarding good behavior lead to better grades?

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BETHEL, Vt. -

As students sit in class at the Bethel Elementary School, they are silently slipped yellow pieces of paper. Well, actually they are called Buzz Bucks.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: Did you get any Buzz Bucks today?

Logan Stiebris/Fourth-grader: Yes.

Adam Sullivan: What for?

Logan Stiebris: Paying attention to the teacher and doing a great job listening and raising your hand.

To get the currency, there are three main principles the kids must follow: responsibility, safety and respect. The Buzz Bucks are collected, and once a week there's a drawing to reward the good behavior.

"You can earn enough Buzz Bucks that you can get a free popcorn or a free pencil," Stiebris explained.

Adam Sullivan: Why did you get your Buzz Bucks today?

Ellie Prestriedge/Third-grader: Being quiet and being respectful and responsible and safe.

The idea behind the initiative is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Support or PBIS. It's a national model implemented in schools across the country that focuses on what kids are doing right.

"You feel like somebody is a king or a queen," Prestriedge said.

Bethel is one of 126 schools across Vermont taking part in PBIS, roughly one-third of all the schools. When Vermont started the program in 2007, there were just three. Today, more than 27,800 students in the Green Mountains are benefiting.

"Basically we are trying to catch kids doing things well," said Julie Cleary, a school counselor.

Julie Cleary and David Amidon oversee Bethel's program. The school was recently recognized for being an exemplary PBIS school for the percentage of kids who perform above the national average when it comes to their behavior. But, like any school, there are still a few bad apples.

"Yes, we have negative consequences for kids and yes, they are needed at times, but it is less likely to change their behavior," Cleary said.

The educators say there are statistics to back that up. They say detention doesn't cut down on the number of disciplinary incidents as much as reinforcing acceptable behavior. And the data is constantly being crunched to figure out where issues exist.

"You are always re-looking, we are always re-analyzing. We don't ever say, oh, those referrals went down, that problem is fixed, closed that door, seal that door, no," Amidon said.

For kids who need a little extra attention there is a "check in, check out" aspect at the beginning and the end of each day. Teachers say just like academics, good behavior needs to be taught, as well.

"Ideally, we see this with some kids, it's a slower process with some than with others to get to the point where they recognize negative choices before they make them," Amidon said.

PBIS is implemented in everything the kids do: on the bus, in gym class and while performing for upcoming plays. And it's not just in the elementary school. The entire building takes part, which includes Whitcomb High School.

"I think it is a great thing because it encourages it to happen more often," said Elijah Ransom, a sophomore.

Elijah Ransom and Catie Covell get Hornet Miles for their reward.

"Makes you think twice about doing something bad," Ransom said. "If you have a choice between doing something good or bad, you do the good thing you get rewarded and it makes you think, maybe I should do the good thing more often."

And the students say they take that philosophy outside of school, as well.

"Taking that into your career, into your life, with your family, with the people around you. It's just making you a better citizen," said Covell, a junior.

And it also makes these young minds realize that their good work is being noticed.

"It tells me that they are paying attention," Stiebris said.

Paying attention to positive behavior that is proven to get results.

UVM's Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, coordinates the program statewide. Click here for more information on PBIS and how your school can join.

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