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Schools Reward Students Showing HART

Hart County High School students play corn hole at the first "No Tardy Party".

Students in Hart County have been partying recently — but that’s because they earned it by showing H.A.R.T.

HART, at the elementary level, stands for Helpful, Accountable, Respectful, and Teachable. At the middle and high school levels, it stands for Honorable, Accountable, Respectful, and Teachable.

By exemplifying these traits, students are rewarded through various types of celebrations, such as movie-theater experiences, game days, prizes, and more.

The HART acronym, which is taught to elementary students early in the school year, is a part of the PBIS program. PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, is an evidence-based three-tier approach that seeks to improve and integrate positive practices and positive student outcomes for all students. It isn't a curriculum that is purchased, but more of a mindset and commitment made to create the kinds of schools, and environments, where students can be successful, improve social outcomes, and are taught, and when needed, retaught expected behaviors in certain settings.

“(Since implementing PBIS) Our data typically now trends within the 25th percentile, meaning that when compared to schools nationwide with the same demographics as Hart County we have fewer (discipline) referrals per 100 students than 75% of the other schools in the nation,” Hart County Charter System MTSS Coordinator Stephanie Cheek Guzman said. “That is an accomplishment of our administrative teams, teachers who are the hands and feet of the work, as well as students who are making better choices and positively using the expectations taught in school settings.”

For consistently demonstrating the HART mantra, students at each school were rewarded with various types of parties or fun activities throughout the month of October. 

Hart County High School hosted a “No Tardy Party” for students who recorded zero tardies in the first 9 weeks of school. More than 600 students were able to attend various activities across the school, including games in the media center, corn hole, four square, volleyball, basketball, a picture booth, karaoke in the Fine Arts Center, and more. Industry leaders say soft skills, like getting to work on time, are critical to success — and the PBIS system helps teach those skills.

At Hart County Middle School, a similar reward day was celebrated with students who earned it participating in various types of sports games, as well as board games, throughout different parts of the school.

The South Hart Elementary Eagles hosted an “Eagle Theater” day in which students were given the opportunity to trade in the PBIS tickets, branded as “Eagle Bucks”, they earned for popcorn and a movie. The theater was packed with students who demonstrated HART throughout the first nine weeks of school. Hartwell Elementary School and North Hart Elementary School also hosted similar movie theater day experiences and packed out their respective “theaters.” The Hartwell Elementary Bullpups filled the Lonnie Burns Fine Arts Center with students who earned enough “Pup Bucks”, while the North Hart Navigators hosted a “Poppin’ PJ Party,” where students who earned enough “Compass Coins” wore pajamas and watched Raya the Last Dragon.

These aren’t the only types of PBIS events. At each elementary school and the middle school, PBIS stores are available with various prizes costing a certain amount of PBIS tickets. By following “expectation matrices” which are posted around the schools and demonstrate how students should behave in different areas of the school, students can earn PBIS tickets. “It’s great because students can decide whether to spend or save their tickets or reward tokens. So it’s kind of an economics lesson too,” Guzman said. 

The PBIS program is a continuous program in which schools have “PBIS teams” consisting of employees who go through training for the program and meet monthly.

“In addition to viewing overall school data, PBIS school-level teams look at what we call the Big 7 reports. These teams are the core of problem-solving and moving the work in the right direction to assist students. Each month, they look at the following questions: what are the most frequent problem behaviors, where are the problem behaviors occurring, what days or times of the day are students behaving inappropriately, how often are they occurring, and what grade levels or students do we need to provide more support,” Guzman said.

In Hart County, the PBIS program works in conjunction with the Seven Mindsets program, which is a social emotional learning curriculum taught on Monday’s known as “Mindset Monday.” It is  designed to promote self-awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. The Seven Mindsets are: Everything is Possible, Passion First, We are Connected, 100% Accountable, Attitude of Gratitude, Live to Give, and The Time is Now. Seven Mindsets is the Hart County Charter System’s attempt to meet the needs of our community and business partners for students to develop their soft skills.

Overall, in the Hart County Charter System, the most gains have been seen in how students react to situations, and how to have empathetic feelings for others, Guzman said.

“I feel like relationships are being built between the students, their teachers and their administrators, because the students know that they’re being credited for that positive behavior and that someone cares enough to model appropriate expectations,” Guzman said.  “Even as adults, we all like to be credited for our work or given a pat on the back.”

The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a national program that was initially funded in 1998. In October of 2018, a new five-year funding cycle was launched. The purpose of the new Center is to improve the capacity of state educational agencies (SEAs), local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools to establish, scale-up, and sustain the PBIS framework to scale up tier 2 and 3 systems to improve outcomes for students with or at-risk for disabilities, enhance school climate and school safety, and improve conditions for learning to promote the well-being of all students.

To learn more about the PBIS program in Hart County Schools, visit https://www.hart.k12.ga.us/domain/1487.

South Hart students had fun at the "Eagle Theater".