Herzl School of Excellence

Herzl School of Excellence

With Herzl’s intentional shift from punitive to positive, and their focus on data-driven action, they are living up to their “turnaround” name and seeing great gains in student achievement.


During the 2015-2016 school year at Herzl School in Chicago, less than 50% of students were on track with their learning. More than 1,600 behavior misconducts had been recorded by staff and, by the second quarter, only 25% of students were classified as on track by the district.

Criteria for On Track students

  • 95% or higher rate of attendance
  • C’s or better in all classes
  • On track to graduate both 8th grade and high school on time

During the following year, things weren’t much better. More than 1,400 behavior misconducts were reported, accounting for 60,240 minutes of learning time lost for students. Herzl had more than 125 school days missed due to behavior consequences.

In 2016-2017, with so much missed class time, only about half of the student body was on track at any given point in the year, sometimes far fewer.

Families, staff members, and students agreed that improvements needed to be made at Herzl—when asked to rate the school on 5Essentials key metrics, the overwhelming response was “neutral”.



Punitive to Positive

The leaders at Herzl Elementary School knew they had to make changes to achieve long-lasting success, so they started to take action. Turnaround schools sometimes focus on punitive measures and often hold students accountable by relying on negative consequences. Herzl’s leadership decided to break that mold by changing their schoolwide culture to one of celebration and thoughtful action, focusing on what students were doing well and encouraging them to do better.

Using Data   

Herzl leaders use Kickboard’s data tracking and analysis platform to support their shift to a positive school culture. They started by establishing a team dedicated to promoting social-emotional learning and PBIS. They created a targeted vision, and reviewed data to determine which behaviors to focus on. By investigating which behaviors were occurring  most often, when they were happening, and which actions were being taken to address those behaviors, leaders could start to see patterns and address issues. They focused in on a few target negative behaviors to eliminate, and started to track and encourage positive replacement behaviors. For example, students lost “Paw Points” in Kickboard for making poor decisions, but could earn “Paw Points” for using good judgment or accepting responsibility.

Kickboard’s research through Tulane University has shown that tracking and rewarding positive behaviors makes a significant impact on school culture. Staff at Herzl knew that Kickboard would enable them to celebrate the things that were going well, address challenges, and hold themselves accountable for following through on reward systems.

Incentives & Support

Students at Herzl earned points for exhibiting behaviors like showing good judgment, communicating productively, or accepting responsibility. Each week, rewards were given out for “self-aware scholars,” “dependable decision-makers,” and “positive relationship promoters.”

As students earned “Paw Points,” they worked toward tangible rewards as well as public recognition of their achievements. School leaders made sure students were active participants in this new system by letting each grade choose which rewards they would earn and kept everyone involved by posting expectations, goals, incentives, and consequences throughout the building.

Students reviewed their Kickboard Character Reports on a weekly basis to reflect on their behavior progress, and were explicitly taught concrete social and emotional skills to help them reach their goals. Staff members were kept more informed of student progress, and rewards were triggered automatically in Kickboard to ensure that students were celebrated for their success. With this open communication and clearly established system for rewards and consequences, students understood the expectations, were motivated to do well and were supported in their growth.

Staff Involvement

A Kickboard School Culture Coach trained Herzl staff members on how to log specific interactions with students and analyze their behavior data. School leaders set clear expectations around Kickboard usage, and celebrated staff members who tracked the most interactions each week to ensure teacher buy-in.

School leaders also relied on Kickboard’s analysis of positivity ratios—the balance of positive to negative interactions recorded by each teacher or for each student. Research has shown that a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions fosters a supportive environment in which student behavior can genuinely improve.

With the balance of recognition for doing the right thing, combined with corrective action and targeted lessons, Herzl staff set students up for success. Staff members were celebrated for maintaining a healthy balance of positive to negative interactions logged in Kickboard as well as meeting the schoolwide positivity goal. Herzl’s staff members also kept a continuous dialogue about student interactions—they met weekly with students to discuss their progress and make plans for improvement, and met quarterly as a staff to review and discuss Kickboard data.


In the past there had been no clear method, platform, or plan for communication among staff, students, and parents at Herzl around school culture and behavior. Kickboard helped create a space for staff to share, document, and review interactions that occurred throughout the day. Parents were able to access their children’s behavior data through the Kickboard Family Portal and by viewing printed reports sent home with students.

The streamlined communication that Kickboard provided was key to Herzl’s success. Not only were staff members on the same page with each other, but they could also easily print out and discuss weekly reports with students. Once students knew exactly what they were doing well, what they could improve on, and how they could improve, they were empowered to become agents of change in their school. With open communication among staff, students, and families, a healthy learning environment and positive school culture were within reach for Herzl.



After focusing on positive reinforcement and implementing Kickboard, behavior misconducts at Herzl decreased 40% in the 2017-2018 school year. Students stayed in class more and missed fewer assignments, attendance went up, and more students were on track throughout the year.  When parents, students, and staff were polled again on the 5Essentials, they rated the school as “strong” or “very strong” on all 5 key metrics.

Additional positive change was evident. Parents were more involved, attending 30% more conferences than the year before; students were more invested and attendance increased to 96%. With 40% fewer behavior misconducts than the previous year, missed class time decreased from 60,240 minutes down to 19,200 – a drastic change that kept students in class, learning. This had a clear impact on students’ on-track rate, which increased from 50% to 63% showing academic gains as well.

Suspensions at Herzl significantly decreased, from 256 suspensions in 2016-2017 to only 17 suspensions in 2017-2018. With Herzl’s intentional shift from punitive to positive, and their focus on data-driven action, they are living up to their “turnaround” name and seeing great gains in student achievement.

2017-2018 Results

  • Total number of behavior misconducts down 40% from 2016-2017
  • Behavior misconducts resulted in 19,200 minutes of class time missed – down from 60,240 minutes the previous year
  • Out of school suspensions decreased from 256 to 17 between 2016-2017 and 2017-2018
  • Number of parent conferences increased by 30%
  • Average ratio of positive to corrective interactions 3:1
  • Student on-track graduation rate increased from 50% to 63%
  • Attendance increased to 96%

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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