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Common Expectations, Celebrations Help Inspire Student Behavior Changes

principal hands out charger cheer

Finding ways to equitably support the social, emotional and academic needs of each student is critically important to the mission of the Issaquah School District. Throughout the ISD and in thousands of schools nationwide, teachers and staff use a data-driven system called Multi-Tiered Systems of Support, or MTSS, to guide their work in determining which students could use a little extra help or assistance in which areas. 

“It’s more of a school philosophy than its own program, and it is our goal as a district to use MTSS in all aspects of our work with students,” said Spenser Phelan, Director of MTSS for the ISD.   

As one example of the many, varied parts of the MTSS system, during the past few years, school officials have been asked to think about the values they want all students to display as a part of building a positive school atmosphere. This helps establish a common set of expectations. At Maywood Middle School, one element of the program is their use of “the Maywood Way” to describe how students can be safe, kind and respectful at different times during the day, such as at arrival and dismissal, in the cafeteria, during passing time and more. 

“We recognize students for doing the right thing, many times throughout the day,” Maywood Principal Crystal Weik said. “They appreciate being recognized for doing the right thing.” Staff members award students tickets, or “Charger Cheers,” which they can enter into a weekly drawing. The winners’ names are shared on large screens as students enter for the school day each Thursday, and students gather around the screens to look for their own name or the names of their friends. Each of that week’s winners gets to choose a small prize.  

At arrival, Weik is in the entryway of the middle school, greeting students and distributing Charger Cheers when she notices students being awesome. “This is usually the best part of my day,” she says. As the morning rush begins and students start flowing into the foyer, small groups pause to check the screens for their names. Every few minutes, someone exclaims excitedly or throws their arms in the air in celebration. “It feels good. It definitely feels like a reward for an accomplishment,” seventh-grader Ben T. said. Eighth-grader Marek W. agreed, “It’s a good piece to remember it by. It shows being kind does have a purpose.” 

While the broader MTSS system helps students know what to expect and aim for, it is also helpful for staff, said Maywood teacher Amy Sehrer. “I think the goal of MTSS is to just honestly meet kids where they’re at and acknowledge and validate and make students feel like they are being heard and seen. I think that’s ultimately why I feel so strongly about it.” 

The MTSS and Positive Behavior and Social Emotional Support (PBSES) efforts throughout the district are funded in part by local levy dollars. One piece of that funding is $3.07 million for behavior intervention work in the 2021-2022 school year, but there are a number of other student support efforts that also receive funding from local levy dollars.  

To learn more, watch a video of staff sharing about how this system helps shape the student experience in schools throughout our district.

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