Great Bend USD 428 students may be learning more than reading and writing in 2016. Assistant Superintendent John Popp said administrators plan to present a district-wide curriculum for social and emotional character development for the school board’s approval in the coming months.
The school board learned some of the details in December, but Popp said board approval wasn’t being sought immediately. He discussed some of the thinking behind a program expected to cost in the neighborhood of $50,000.
In 2014-15, USD 428 was selected as one of three Kansas school districts to be in the first statewide multi-tier system of supports cohort group. “Through the MTSS process, one area of emphasis, along with math and reading, is behavior,” Popp said.
While children are taught reading and math, he continued, “we kind of expect them to behave. Like anything, it needs to be taught.”
Superintendent Brad Reed voiced support for a behavior curriculum.
“This has been a goal of mine since I came on board,” he said, adding it “goes directly to the heart of the ‘soft skills’ the state wants.”
Last May, officials from the Kansas State Department of Education visited Great Bend and other communities to get business leaders’ perspective on what schools need to teach. Employers said students should graduate from high school with work ethics and the ability to be self-starters.
At the Great Bend meeting, Linda Bonewell, human resources director at Fuller Industries, said that along with technical skills, successful employees need “the soft skills ... ethics, communication and dependability.”
MTSS literature says research supports the idea that teaching individual students the social skills that are expected of them can help replace problem behavior with more appropriate responses.
Popp and Reed said Great Bend will be one of the leaders in the state if the district adopts a behavior curriculum.
The curriculum won’t necessarily take the form of additional classes. Reed compared the lessons to the way writing skills are taught. “It’s better done across the curriculum than in a class,” he said.
Riley and Lincoln elementary schools are already teaching some of these skills with a program they developed called “Getting Along.”
For older students, the lessons will be incorporated during the time they spend with advisers.