It’s not the first time the student services and counseling staff at E.P. Rock Elementary School in Hudson has received recognition from the Wisconsin School Counseling Association.
The association announced just two recipients of the Program of Promise award, the highest award presented by the association, in the state this year – E.P. Rock was one of them.
This award is given out to school counselors who meet or exceed a set of requirements in a submitted accountability report.
The data isn’t uniquely collected by E.P. Rock. All of the Hudson schools follow the same or similar models, collecting information on academic, social-emotional and career development impacts.
Kelly Curtis, counselor at E.P. Rock for the last 13 years, spends a lot of time looking at the data.
By June 2023, male students will decrease their percentage of K-5 office discipline referrals by 20%, from 87% to 70%.
By June 2023 the number of Black students earning office discipline referrals will decrease by 20%, from 10 to 8.
“All of our schools do the same thing,” Curtis said. “We collect data, we figure out where there are gaps… we design interventions to address those needs and then we keep track… did they work, did they not work?”
Between academic performance, attendance, health office visits and behavioral data, counselors are able to come up with an overall intervention strategy individualized to each student.
Over the last few years, her tactics and strategies have worked. The data shows that.
The overall number of office discipline referrals has decreased. Notably, the referrals for Black and multiracial students decreased impressively.
A keen focus on equity has been paying off.
During the 2020-21 school year, Black and multiracial students hand 1 ½ times more office discipline referrals compared to all other students.
“In 2021-22, intentional efforts to bring culturally responsive practices into their school-wide behavior system, facilitating professional development presentations E.P. Rock staff and working with new students to ensure they understood schoolwide expectations and where to get support became the priority for the school counseling program,” the Wisconsin School Counseling Association stated.
Referrals for Black students decreased by 29% and 50% for multi-racial students in 2021-22.
Receiving an award like this showcases the “effectiveness of the school counseling program,” Curtis said. “Only 2 schools in the state are earning this award this year, so that shows how difficult it is to meet the criteria needed through the Wisconsin School Counseling Association.”
She and the staff are acutely aware of an equity gap in behavior among students of color.
“It’s really important that we focus on this as a school. Our principal takes it very seriously and we have made a lot of changes in accommodations and strategies,” Curtis said. “We’re adding so many things and ways to make it more equitable for all students.”
These efforts have drastically impacted all students in a positive way.
“Office discipline referrals have decreased significantly over the last couple of years for all students,” she said.
Curtis also facilitated a Calendar Club “for students who were chronically tardy, to ensure equitable access to education. As a result, attendance data for these students showed a 50% increase in on-time attendance between the months before and during/after the intervention.”
“To improve safety on the bus and ensure all students have equitable access to safe school transportation, students learned about their bus drivers and were taught games to play on the bus. Results showed a 100% decrease in bus behavioral referrals during this five-week intervention (when compared to the five weeks leading up to the intervention or the previous year at this time.)”
She put it into easy to understand terms.
With 80.5% of the E.P. Rock student population being white and 23.9% being students of color, the percentage of students who receive office discipline referrals should reflect that – 80.5% of the referrals should be for white students and 20% for students of color.
Curtis also puts extra observation into students of color who have transferred into E.P. Rock.
“What we have found in the past is that a lot of times, these are the kiddos that struggled a lot because there are new norms,” Curtis said. “It’s important that we provide that support for a child who has this much to learn.”
These students might be placed in small groups, taught best-practice self-regulation concepts, breathing and inner coach, walking away and more.
E.P. Rock’s application for the award said, “The goal was to help students code switch and learn school social norms so they would not earn behavior referrals. Additionally, the school counselor, principal and [Positive Behavioral Interventions Support] team collaborated to be more culturally responsive on our [office discipline referral] and minor forms. Research shows that subjective language such as ‘disrespect,’ ‘defiance,’ and ‘disruption’ are prone to bias and so they were removed from the [office discipline referral] forms.”
With a mostly white staff, Curtis and her coworkers, including administration, have been examining their implicit biases, recently discussing microaggressions in regular meetings. They’ve done book clubs, reading works like “White Fragility,” to further discuss the topic of race.
“We’re really reaching out as a staff to have those courageous conversations,” she said.
All of this work on the end of the staff has informed the practices that have improved the experience for students at E.P. Rock.
Curtis was humble in her acceptance of this award, making sure to share the recognition.
“I can’t take full credit,” she said. “We’re completely collaborative and everybody's on the same page.”
Curtis and E.P. Rock will be recognized during the National School Counselor Week breakfast on Friday, Feb. 10.
“We are proud of the work of School Counselor Kelly Curtis and the entire E.P. Rock team,” Hudson School District’s Chief of Schools Officer Tara Gonyer said. “Their hard work and commitment to supporting all children greatly benefits each child's academic success.”
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