What is an Office Referral & Systems to Track Them


If you have a student who has not been following instructions and their behavior has been corrected on multiple occasions, what do you do? When a student is displaying an egregious behavior that is disruptive to the learning environment, how do you respond? The response in many of these cases could be writing and sending an office referral. Office referrals are a request for support in response to student behavior choices.

What is an office referral?

An office referral is a written request or directive sending a student to visit the school administration in response to a behavior choice. An office referral can be for all types of behavior and procedures can determine when and for what reason students should go to the office. The office referral is a way for teachers to communicate the student behavior with school administration for support in correcting those behaviors.

Sending a student to the office with a referral should not be the only way to monitor student behavior. There should be a discipline system that has multiple ways to respond to student behavior and is monitored regularly to track overall discipline trends. 

→ Check out this whitepaper for more strategies to reduce office referrals

Developing an organized system for office referrals allows schools to see how referrals are used by each teacher and collect related student data. This is an opportunity for teachers to create a system that encourages students to take responsibility for their behaviors with clear expectations and procedures to follow when those expectations are not met. In addition to this referral system, schools should also have a system for rewards and recognition, encouraging students to make good behavior choices.

One way to create a standard system for behavior is to develop a referral guide. This tool can be used as a way to identify offenses, how they should be responded to in the classroom and what offenses warrant an office referral. Improving school safety and maintaining quality learning environments is really important. This can be supported by having a referral guide that identifies parameters for when expectations are not met and more support is required from school administration.

How to Track Office Referrals

As school leaders determine the culture they envision for their school, they may include a plan to track discipline measures. This is a way to identify student behaviors, respond and measure the effectiveness of interventions meant to correct behavior choices. 

Develop a Referral Plan

Involve teachers, administrators and other key staff in identifying strategies for the schoolwide plan. Determine what areas of discipline will be monitored and what tools will be used to track referrals. If there are other incentive programs in place, discuss how this tracking system will align with other school programs. Leverage the referral guide to be explicit about behaviors and consequences. 

 Referral Entry System

Tracking how often students are sent to the office and for what reasons can be collected in different ways. A tracking system can be digital or connected to a behavior platform that collects additional behavior information. Remember that collecting this information can provide important data to identify and address trends. Take the initiative to include detailed notes for behavior referrals and collect that data as well.

Kickboard offers a behavior entry and referral platform that can support the discipline program at your school.

 Setting Behavior Expectations 

Behavior expectations should be clearly communicated to students, families and school staff. The use of a behavior matrix will support being able to identify when an office referral is necessary and when other behavior management practices should be leveraged. Additionally, using behavior contracts can provide students with some agency in their behavior and teachers can support students in taking responsibility. The expectations should include definitions, terms and categories for the referral to ensure they are being used appropriately.

Review the Referral Data

Review your school’s referral data often to assess how the tracking system is functioning and adjust as needed. School administrators and teachers should consistently use the referral data to provide context for the student experience as well as feedback for teachers on how they manage behavior.

As schools determine the plan for implementation and analysis there are additional steps to ensure that office referrals are effective in improving student behavior. Referral data helps in being able to determine that discipline is fair and addresses how referrals can be used to understand student behavior data across demographics. The analysis of the discipline data helps school administration determine the effectiveness of interventions to decrease the number of negative office referrals and increase in student rewards over time.