Jason Allen is the Dean of Students at Broome Street Academy (BSA) High School in Manhattan. He recently shared great insight into how Kickboard and Restorative Practices together support their overall mission for post-secondary success and positive life outcomes. With half of BSA’s students homeless, transitionally housed, or a part of the child welfare system, the school’s promise to develop non-academic, socio-emotional strengths is a high priority. The staff incorporates Restorative Practices and Kickboard in tandem to hold students accountable for excellence. Here is a glimpse into how they use the two models together successfully.
Students are held accountable for the school’s five pillars of excellence: Professionalism, Resilience, Investment, Dignity, Empathy (P.R.I.D.E.). In Kickboard, staff members award “PRIDE dollars” for positive choices, and leaders use the dashboard tally to keep track of how the students are doing collectively with their PRIDE behaviors. As with many Kickboard schools, BSA incentivizes positive choices by allowing students to use their dollars toward privileges such as trips, dress-down days, and the chance to use their phones at lunchtime. Mr. Allen states, “I don’t see why incentivizing things needs to be exclusive to Restorative Practices. It’s just another layer of positive school culture.”
Relationships are at the core of BSA’s Restorative model, and the school is very intentional about ensuring every student is connected and supported. Every student, or “champ,” is given a staff mentor called a “Champion.” Staff members meet with their champs daily during homeroom and follow the student throughout his or her high school years at BSA, providing the student with a deep, long-term relationship with an adult who knows and truly cares about him or her.
During daily check-in’s, Champions (staff) and champs (students) not only check in on academics but also pull up Kickboard to debrief behavior choices. Together, they reflect on the point totals and detailed notes other teachers have entered into Kickboard. BSA staff have normed how they use the notes feature, and it’s quite a unique application. They use the feature not only as a way to document situations but also as a messaging tool. Champions write notes directly to the students in Kickboard, sending them messages of encouragement,compliments, and specific feedback. Champs and champions then use all the behavior data and anecdotes in Kickboard as a guide for making concrete action plans to help the student succeed academically and socio-emotionally.
If students engage in challenging behavior, BSA staff members have been trained to facilitate restorative conversations. They speak with—not to—the students who caused the harm, helping them reflect on their choices and learn from their mistakes, all the while reinforcing the school’s five pillars of excellence. The staff members’ goal is to have the students talk about the mistake, take ownership of it, learn from it, and quickly return to the community feeling accepted despite the mistake.
With every restorative conversation, teachers document the event in Kickboard using the notes feature. The behavior “Restorative” falls under a category they call “Intervention,” and it neither adds, nor takes away dollars from the student. As Mr. Allen shares, Kickboard “is a good tool to use to document things. It’s important to learn from these conversations.”
Mr. Allen shared a hypothetical scenario where students have the opportunity to more formally share their learning after a mistake. Let’s say a student is caught stealing a teacher’s cell phone. First, there is a small meeting between the offender (in this case, the student who stole) and the person harmed (the teacher), with the dean serving as a neutral facilitator. He probes the student to focus on what happened, why, how the act affected the person harmed, and what should be done to make things right. The meeting details are documented in Kickboard using the neutral behavior “Restorative Meeting.” Following the small conference, the student offender has the opportunity to truly own the mistake by conducting a formal presentation to a group of staff members. The student presents the mistake and what he or she learned from it, and the staff has an opportunity to ask questions.
The goal of these conferences is to prevent a downward spiral of offenses and to restore offenders back into the community. Mr. Allen explains that when a student makes a very bad choice, “The fear is that students start to feel like they don’t fit in anymore,” which causes them to be further distanced from the community and more likely to repeat offenses. With Restorative Conferences, unlike punitive-only approaches to discipline, the young person has a chance to repair the harm and be welcomed back into his or her society.
Kickboard and Restorative Practices have complemented each other beautifully at Broome Street Academy High School. Both initiatives are intentional efforts to build positive relationships while monitoring and holding students accountable for excellence. With both Kickboard and Restorative Practices in place, schools can offer their students a positive school culture that ensures post-secondary success and positive life outcomes.