Tulare charter school earns platinum award for behavioral systems

Accelerated Charter High School received the highest rated platinum recognition for the implementation of ways they help support at risk students

TULARE– Accelerated Charter High School in Tulare became one of only a few high schools in California and the first in the county to be recognized for their implementation of positive behavioral interventions and support system.

After being open for less than ten years, Accelerated Charter High School (ACHS) received the highest recognition from the California Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coalition. Their recognition is something that quite a few high schools apply for in Tulare County and ranges from bronze, silver, gold and platinum. This is the first time a charter school has won platinum and current principal Wendi Powell said this recognition would not have been possible without her staff who works hard everyday to ensure all students are succeeding.

“If it wasn’t for the amazing staff that we have on campus, we wouldn’t have received this level of award. They deserve it,” Powell said. “Everybody, from our security guards, to our secretaries, to our teachers, to our counselors and school psychologists, we’re all on the same page and working together and they’re the ones who really deserve this award.”

According to the nationwide PBIS website, PBIS is an evidence-based three-tiered framework to improve and integrate all of the data, systems and practices that affect a student’s everyday outcomes. It is a program that can be implemented to help the betterment of an overall student by providing them support where they would usually not get it. 

ACHS is a charter high school for students from the three comprehensive sites in Tulare who are behind on credits for any reason.  Both Powell and former dean of students Sara Zakarian, said that it was beneficial for the school that they were able to implement the ideals of PBIS into the curriculum from the day the school opened seven years ago. 

“We started that school from the ground up. We were able to create our culture, our traditions, our mascot, our school colors,” Zakarian said. “So, because we were able to implement [PBIS] from the start, it was just built into our school.”

The first tier includes all students, and as the tiers move along, it focuses on students who are more at risk, or need more intensive specialized help. ACHS began a response to intervention (RTI) program daily, which is now being modeled throughout the comprehensive sites in the district. 

Zakarian said their RTI program did not allow students to receive a D or F grade in a class. ACHS focused on risk behavior issues and mentorship for students who were relieving zeros and low grades. By providing the support the student needed they were able to succeed. 

“If [students] had a D, or F in any class, or if they were missing assignments, they went to a special intervention period every single day, until they made up their assignment or brought their grade up to a C or better,” Zakarian said.

According to Powell, in an effort to implement the ideals of PBIS throughout the state, the California PBIS Coalition awards schools on how well each is implementing the curriculum. 

“[The coalition] was here to create positive culture on every single campus to get away from suspension and get away from sending students home [by creating] a positive approach to behavior, a positive approach to discipline, a positive approach to supporting students,” Powell said.

One example of how ACHS implements PBIS each day, is students fill out a small form telling staff how they are doing on a one through five number scale. If there is a cause for concern in any student, they are checked in on. 

This year, 38 schools applied for recognition in Tulare County, that number includes elementary and high schools. According to Joe Martinez, director of psychology for Tulare County Office of Education, all 38 schools received some level of recognition all the way from bronze to platinum. 

Schools must apply to receive recognition from the coalition. According to Luke Anderson, a member of the California PBIS Coalition, there are seven criteria that must be met in order to qualify for recognition. The criteria covers an array of how well PBIS is implemented into each school and how it will continue to be in the future. Each year the recognition changes, and schools can receive a different level, based on the new year. 

The coalition is made up of several public education agencies. They make the final decision as to which level each school receives based on the data that is collected from the application process, with the help of external evaluators. Anderson said this year, 12% or 1,400 of all schools in California applied for recognition. Of the schools that applied for recognition, 282 schools received platinum, 430 schools received gold, 504 schools received silver and 154 schools received bronze.

Powell and Zakarian will be presenting their efforts at the 2022 California PBIS conference in Sacramento for their efforts in implementing PBIS  throughout their school. 

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