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Viewpoint: District finds success in helping disruptive students

By Karsten Anderson, superintendent of Red Wing Public Schools

For this column, I will highlight an important issue facing schools throughout the country. Local and national educators have reported increased disruptive behavior by some students, especially younger students, over the past three years. Disruptive behavior impacts educators and other students, which leads to lost instructional opportunities.

Thankfully, though, the passage of last November's operating levy will help address these issues here in Red Wing.

In its report "Breaking Bad Behavior," EAB Global Inc. speculated that the reported rise in disruptive behavior over the past three years might be related to the distractions and distress of today's younger students. The impact of the Great Recession, increased substance abuse, mental health issues, increased use of electronic resources, and decreased free play and physical activity were identified as possible factors impacting a generation of students throughout the country.

Best practices

EAB also organized 15 best practices to manage behavioral disruptions into 4 categories:

• Prevent misbehavior through early intervention.

• Create conditions for positive classroom behavior.

• Promote the social-emotional well-being of students and teachers.

• Enhance support for higher-needs students

The school district will analyze these best practices to see how they could be incorporated into our standard work. Additional resources such as mental health therapists, other support personnel, curriculum, and staff development will be allocated thanks to the passage of last year's referendum questions.

A year ago, educators at the high school joined together to address school climate, including student discipline issues. As a result, educators agreed to set higher expectations for students, diligently enforce school rules, and make changes to school policy. The collaborative approach made a difference. High school students and staff members report fewer disruptions and stronger engagement in school this academic year.

This spring, a districtwide school climate committee will continue its work to ensure that we continually improve our practices, and a team of Burnside educators will review, select, and implement strategies specifically designed for upper elementary students.

This work will be challenging and will take time. The factors causing increased disruptive behavior did not develop overnight and are not easily undone, but we are committed to addressing this critical societal issue.

Please contact me at 651-385-4502 or klanderson@rwps.org if you have any questions or concerns about the school district.

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