Use Restorative Practices to Build Schoolwide Policies That Work for Everyone

How can we, as educators, make an impact on student performance in our buildings? No one can be anywhere all at once, so schools adopt and create schoolwide policies that everyone in the building is to follow. The problem is that policies that address the entire school often miss individual students and cases. And each miss is another behavior that goes unaddressed.

Many schools adopt the solution of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (also known as MTSS), a popular framework in which schools use data-based decision-making for interventions and plans of action to address student performance. Using MTSS tools and strategies, faculties analyze data on a daily basis then apply the information to pinpoint areas of potential weakness for each student. As the name implies, they use several tiers of information:

Tier 1. This tier is defined as the universal interventions that educators give in all settings and to all students. They focus on being preventive and proactive by encouraging student success through progress monitoring. Between 80 and 90 percent of your student body will fall into this tier. Tier 1 uses high-quality classroom management delivered through universal design and accommodations.

Tier 2. This is when interventions are more targeted, and typically affect 15 to 20 percent of your student population. This tier is where educators utilize selected standardized interventions, individualized monitoring, and individualized assessments.

Tier 3. The interventions in this last tier are intensive and include 3 to 5 percent of your students. These students should have heavily individualized approaches to their learning, and these may include modifications and accommodations as deemed appropriate by specialists, health professionals, and administrators.

The overarching thought process of MTSS should be to accurately identify student deficits, barriers, and soft-skill goals in regard to social and emotional learning, but schoolwide policies can sometimes overlook this. 

Universal policies are often too rigid and do not focus on building and improving crucial relationships throughout the school. It is difficult for systems like MTSS to individualize supports, especially regarding student behavior needs. MTSS may help address large gaps in student performance, but it may not help deduce which students need that extra social or emotional support.

MTSS models can also result in the labeling and pigeonholing of students, and the interventions do not always work for everyone. This is hard to combat when creating a schoolwide approach, but you can account for this by allowing students to repair the harm as a form of intervention. When students use restorative practices, they are able to maintain their sense of community with their classmates.

Restorative practices allow teachers and administrators to hold students accountable, develop an inclusive school climate, and maintain and strengthen relationships. Try implementing restorative practices into your Multi-Tiered System of Supports with the following ideas:

Tier 1. Since this tier involves universal interventions for all learners and school environments, create policies that can be used in every classroom that are preventative and proactive. 

  • Use restorative language throughout the building.
  • Practice circles to create a culture of restorative practices.
  • Create clear and consistent expectations.

Tier 2. The interventions in this tier are more targeted, so the restorative discipline component should be strongly utilized when conflicts present themselves.

  • Execute restorative mediations on a regular basis.
  • Allow students to participate in decision-making and repair the harm.
  • Reach and encourage growth mindset thinking.

Tier 3. As the most intensive interventions, Tier 3 supports are already individualized. To implement restorative discipline at this stage in the process, your school culture will need to embrace effective, data-based practices, such as:

  • Create an empathy-driven culture.
  • Encourage mindfulness in all students and staff.
  • Adopt a “relationships first” motto.

Nothing will completely overcome the individualized behavioral and need deficits in each student; too much complexity exists around each student’s barriers, emotional development, and backgrounds. MTSS is simply a problem-solving tool. With restorative discipline integrated every step of the way, however, a positive climate becomes achievable. Together, the two practices will collaboratively enhance classroom culture, school climate, and student productivity. 

Portions of this article were excerpted from Hacking School Discipline

Main post photo by Monstera via Pexels

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