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School bus drivers adopt positive reinforcement

The most noteworthy item at the Sept. 9 Oregon Trail School Board meeting was not about teachers or students, but about bus drivers, and how their new training to handle unruly kids has been working.

Naas Elementary School Principal Kimberly Brooks gave a presentation on the results of last year’s expansion of the Positive Behavioral and Instructional Support program to include bus drivers.

Used for years in the classroom, PBIS is designed to recognize good behavior and use it as an example for other kids to follow.

The idea is to avoid scolding kids or singling them out for bad behavior. Asking school bus drivers to think in this way can be a tough sell, according to Brooks, and this past year has been a sort of working laboratory for the program.

“This was something that a lot of our drivers had trouble with,” Brooks said. “They come from a different generation where once the adult said it, then that was it. So this was a really big step for a lot of our drivers.”

Brooks said the PBIS implementation has revealed that most bus drivers are only trained to react to bad behavior, while the new training teaches them to recognize and anticipate the behavior before it starts.

Brooks said when the program started, 20 percent of the drivers had bought into the program. Today, she said, that number is around 40 percent.

For effectiveness, the numbers point to an improvement in bus behavior.

“Incidents have actually gone down, which is unusual,” she said. “It’s a little early to tell, but at least this past year it’s gotten better.”

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