Betty Best Elementary

Betty Best Elementary

With CHAMPS™ and Kickboard, Best Elementary Celebrates State Accountability Success

Two years after Betty Best Elementary received a state accountability rating of Improvement Required, a new leadership team took the helm and implemented the CHAMPS™ model to improve student behavior and create a more positive environment for teaching and learning. The following year, the urban Title I school began using the Kickboard school culture system to make it easy for teachers and administrators to collect, analyze, share, and act on student behavior data in real-time. Together, CHAMPS™ and Kickboard are giving teachers the strategies and tools they need to help students achieve social and emotional success, which is having a positive impact on their academic performance. Over the last three years, Best Elementary has:

  • Made significant gains in academic achievement on state assessments
  • Closed performance gap between student groups
  • Reduced office referrals by 25 percent
  • State rating of Met Standard for the first time in five years


  • High-poverty school
  • Lack of behavior data
  • High mobility rate
  • Improvement required state rating


In 2012-13, Betty Best Elementary received an Improvement Required rating through the Texas State Accountability System. When Renee Canales became principal in 2014-15, she set out to create an educational environment that would help students achieve social, emotional and academic success.

“Best Elementary had a reputation for being a tough campus,” said Canales. “When we looked at the school’s data, it was difficult to determine what to focus on first because everything was a priority.”

From the get-go, Canales and her staff could see that student behavior was having a negative impact on learning, but the school didn’t have systems for managing or tracking behavior data. “It doesn’t matter how skilled you are as a teacher or how great you are with your content — if kids aren’t behaving, learning isn’t going to happen,” said Canales.

In 2014-15, the school implemented a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system incorporating the CHAMPS™ framework from Safe and Civil Schools. CHAMPS™ is a proactive, positive approach to classroom management that overtly teaches students how to behave responsibly. School leaders set a goal to reduce office referrals. By the end of the school year, however, office referrals actually increased over the previous year. “After seeing that, we knew we had to do a better job tracking behavior data, particularly for our students who struggled the most,” said Canales. “When we heard about Kickboard and saw all of the data it could provide, we knew it was exactly what we needed.”



Best Elementary began using the Kickboard school culture system in fall 2016.

Kickboard includes a highly configurable, web-based platform and collaborative, research-based professional development. With Kickboard, educational leaders can set school- and district-wide behavior expectations to help teachers keep students engaged in learning. With just a tap, teachers can easily record and reinforce the behaviors that make up the school’s ideal culture — without adding extra work to their day.

Supporting CHAMPS™

Best Elementary school leaders and teachers use Kickboard daily to support their implementation of CHAMPS™. By following the CHAMPS™ research-based strategies, teachers develop methods for clearly communicating their expectations on every classroom activity and transition.


Conversation: Can students talk to each other during this activity? How?

Help: How do students get the teacher’s attention and their questions answered?

Activity: What is the task/objective? What is the end product?

Movement: Can students move about during this activity?

Participation: How do students show they are fully participating? What does work behavior look/sound like?

Success: When students meet CHAMPS™ expectations, they will be successful!


“With Kickboard, we can take all of the CHAMPS™ components and customize the behavior buttons in the system to meet our needs. This makes it easy for teachers to track what we want them to track and act on that data in a timely way,” said Canales. “What’s great about Kickboard is that it’s not something that’s ‘in addition’ to CHAMPS™; it just makes it easier to do what we’re already doing. Kickboard also shows us very specifically how we can be more successful with CHAMPS™ at the student, classroom, and school levels.


Supporting the STOIC framework

Best Elementary uses the core features of CHAMPS™, which are organized around the STOIC framework for effective behavior management:

  • Structure for success.
  • Teach behavioral expectations to students.
  • Observe and supervise.
  • Interact positively with students.
  • Correct fluently.


“Kickboard supports each element of STOIC,” said Karen Smith, a Prevention and Safe Schools (PASS) specialist with Alief ISD. “It gives us a consistent platform we can use school-wide to ‘structure for success.’ It provides real-time behavior data so we can identify gaps and ‘teach’ or reinforce our behavioral expectations. It allows us to ‘observe and supervise’ our students and teachers, and recognize their successes. It gives us the data we need to encourage teachers to ‘interact positively with students.’ And it allows us to easily track the ‘corrections’ we provide to students, which makes it easier to keep those corrections brief and respectful so they don’t interrupt the flow of instruction.”


Motivating students with positive feedback

Using Kickboard, teachers can instantly record when students meet the school’s behavior expectations and automatically assign what the school calls “Bulldog Bucks.” At Best Elementary, students can earn $10 each day for attending school, $1 or $2 for exhibiting positive behaviors, and $5 for going “above and beyond.” They can spend their weekly paycheck at the school store or for special classroom or school-wide incentives.

“It’s very motivating for students to receive positive feedback in the form of Bulldog Bucks. This recognition provides them with real-time feedback that the behavior choices they’re making are moving them toward success,” said Smith.


Monitoring the positivity ratio

Teachers and administrators also use Kickboard to track their positivity ratio — the ratio of positive to corrective behaviors — to see if they are meeting expectations at the student, classroom, and school levels.

“At minimum, we want to have a 3:1 positivity ratio, and that’s been our goal for the last three years,” said Elizabeth Merwald, the Behavior and Prevention Specialist at Best Elementary. “Kickboard allows us to track that data in real-time, which is much more efficient than trying to do it through classroom observations.”

“Having a positive focus is really important here,” said Smith. “In the area surrounding the school, students are exposed to many risky behaviors, and many have a deficit in the positivity ratio before they even walk through the door. The 3:1 positivity ratio gives teachers a way to be more purposeful in their interactions with students.”

“Once you give students a hug or some positive attention, they’re okay, but they have to have that before they can engage and learn,” added Merwald. “While our school-wide goal is 3:1, some kids need 10:1 or 15:1 positive interactions just to be fine for the day. So we’ve done a lot of training on interacting positively with students, which is part of the STOIC framework.”


Collaborating in culture PLCs

Once a month, Best Elementary teachers focus on culture in their grade-level professional learning communities (PLCs). During the meeting, each teacher shares and discusses the Kickboard behavior data they have analyzed for their classes and students. As they do so, they reflect on the data and formulate an action plan. Merwald coaches teachers throughout the process, writing down the actions each teacher intends to take so she can support that commitment in follow-ups. In addition, Merwald uses the Kickboard data to highlight common patterns and guide future professional development and coaching efforts.

“The PLCs not only give teachers the ability to learn from each other, but they enable them to dig deeper and accomplish more than they could on their own,” said Merwald. “Teachers leave with a feeling that they’re supported and that we’re all in this together, which is very motivating.”



  • Significant gains in academic achievement on state assessments
  • Closing performance gap between student groups
  • Reduced office referrals
  • State rating of Met Standard for the first time in five years


Improved performance on state assessments and accountability measures

Best Elementary improved its scores on all four of the Texas Education Agency’s performance indices.

  • Index 1 Score – Student Achievement
  • Index 2 Score – Student Progress
  • Index 3 Score – Closing Performance Gaps
  • Index 4 Score – Postsecondary Readiness

“From our first year here to last year, we’ve had double-digit gains in all four indices,” said Canales.

Since 2014, Best Elementary students have achieved steady gains on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in reading, writing, and math, which is measured in Index 1. They also made significant improvement in closing performance gaps for minority and economically disadvantaged students, as measured in Index 3.

While the school certainly put considerable effort into academics, they attribute a large part of their academic gains to their intentional efforts on improving student behavior. “We knew that school culture and behavior would have to be key areas of focus if we wanted students to improve academically,” said Canales.


Reduced office referrals

The school has also seen a sharp decline in the number of office referrals. “We reduced the number of office referrals by 17 percent from last year, and by 25 percent from 2013,” said Merwald.


Creating a foundation for academic achievement

“For campuses where behavior is an issue and academic performance isn’t where it needs to be, it’s essential to have a school-wide system for tracking and managing behavior and culture data. For campuses that are meeting academic performance expectations, any classroom teacher will tell you that half of what they do isn’t teaching; it’s building a community in the classroom,” said Merwald. “With Kickboard, our teachers have the real-time data they need to understand what’s happening with our students so they can better address their needs. I attribute our academic gains to our focus on culture and behavior, and putting the right systems and structures in place school-wide.”

“Kickboard has married very nicely with the programs here at Best Elementary. We definitely see Kickboard as a support to CHAMPS™ and the STOIC framework. Kickboard gives us the tools we need to monitor and reinforce these practices and strategies, and measure students’ and teachers’ progress. Without Kickboard, I don’t see us having the same level of success we’ve had with these programs,” said Smith. “I also have to give Best Elementary kudos for their focus on positive interactions. There is a great deal of pressure at this campus to improve students’ academic performance. The teachers here work very hard and they do it with a smile. This is because the leadership takes care of the teachers so they can take care of the students.”

“Kickboard has brought our campus together so we’re all working within a common system and toward common goals,” said Canales. “If a school is looking for a system to unify staff and students, I would absolutely recommend Kickboard. It allows us to see very clearly that we are all responsible for working with all of our students.”



1. Sprick, R. S. (2009). CHAMPS: A proactive and positive approach to classroom management (2nd ed.). Eugene, OR: Pacific Northwest Publishing.

Together, the Kickboard software and leadership coaching are pushing our schools to think differently about what makes students and teachers successful, how they can create stronger cultures, and how they can sustain this improvement over time.


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