By Staff

Vol. 1, No. 5, 1979, pp. 21-22

Cool is the word for discipline alternatives in the High Point, North Carolina public schools. As an acronym, Cool means character oriented optional learning. As a project for junior high school students, it includes alternative learning centers, diagnostic-prescriptive teaching, student rights and responsibilities and parent education.

Funded by Title IV-C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Project Cool operates an alternative learning center (ALC) in three junior high schools. The centers are for students who have difficulty adjusting to the normal junior high school programs. In most cases the difficulty comes to light through some form of disruptive behavior which would ordinarily lead to suspension or expulsion.

Centers are located in unused space somewhere in each junior high school and each is equipped with a wealth of materials, both commercially prepared and teacher made, designed specifically for working with the type of student assigned to the center. Each ALC can accommodate up to 15 students at a time. A staff of one professional and one aid works in each center. This staff also assists in planning and operating inservice training for teachers and parent education sessions.

Volume One, Number One of the project’s newsletter, Keepin’ Cool, described in some detail how the students are assigned to the center, what happens, in general, while they are there and how they get out. From that issue:

“The referral process is initiated with a disruptive behavioral problem recognized either by a teacher, guidance counselor, or a member of the administrative staffs of the junior high schools. The teacher conveys the necessary referral information to the Administrative Assistant who, in turn, conveys this information to the Principal of Administration. This Principal, after reviewing pertinent data is responsible for calling and chairing a staffing to give the behavioral problem due consideration.

The representation of the staffing is at the discretion of the principal. However, usually the composition of the staffing will reflect some or all of the following personnel: The ALC teacher, the student’s teachers, the home/school coordinator, the school psychologist, and the guidance counselor.

After a thorough review of the problem, the committee or staff can offer a number of recommendations including: counseling by the psychologist/guidance counselor, home visits by the home/school coordinator, utilization of outside agencies, referral back to the classroom for a cooling-off period with periodic contacts by the principal of instruction or the principal of administration, suspension, or referral to the ALC for a time limit deemed appropriate by the ALC teachers.

Once a decision has been made to refer the student to the ALC, the home/school coordinator is contacted to deliver in person a form indicating to parents that the student will be temporarily reassigned to the ALC. Another form notifies a student’s teachers that he/she will be reporting to the ALC, and requests assignments and materials.

Within the ALC, the student will have an orientation period to further explain the center, his/her role, and the teacher’s role. This orientation period will also include directed work periods alternating with a number of informal diagnostic tools such as reinforcement, anger, interest, and values inventories. As the student completes assignments within the ALC the teacher will attempt to find the antecedents of the problems, and help the student to become aware of the consequences of his/her behavior. Value clarification will be used as an alternative strategy within the center. If the ALC teacher observes the student experiencing difficulty with assignments, informal academic inventories (informal spelling and math placement tests) will be employed in an attempt to discover if the academic and behavioral difficulties are related.

While in the ALC, the student will use a Behavioral Contract and will be evaluated daily. Also, he/she will

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negotiate a contract of conditions for re-entry to the classroom. The ALC will gradually be phased-out as the student fulfills the contract conditions. Before formal reentry, appropriate teachers will be notified by the ALC teacher. It is hoped that the ALC teacher and the classroom teacher will develop a close working relationship so that diagnostic information and instructional techniques can be shared. Another staffing (re-entry) could be used to facilitate this informationsharing. This sharing will facilitate a smooth transition into the classroom.”

A student’s behavior will be periodically reviewed by the ALC staff and the classroom teacher in an effort to prevent return to the ALC.

Two years ago when Project Cool began, a student was referred to one of the ALC’s. The reasons for this referral were numerous. His teachers indicated that he was simply unable to function in a normal classroom situation, possibly because of emotional problems and a negative selfimage. They reported his behavior as being very disruptive-habitual tardies and cuts, smoking, hitting others and making noises, etc.

This student expressed a personal desire for help and requested that he be placed in the ALC. After entering the center, he seemed to thrive on personal attention and soon learned that he would receive extra praise and attention when it was so deserved. His behavior and work habits showed constant improvement. Much progress occurred as the student received individual help and instruction. Time was spent on remedial work in math and reading before advancing to regular classroom assignments.

A close relationship developed between this student and the ALC staff. Because of his interest in the guitar, the ALC aid volunteered to give him private lessons one afternoon a week.

After several weeks, the student began gradually returning to his regular class schedule. According to the ALC teacher, “His progress was gratifying. His teachers say he has done a complete turnabout and is like a different person. He is now described as being a delightful, polite, conscientious student. This is truly a success story that warms the heart and makes me say I am doing something worthwhile.”

Those who enter are finding help in the ALC. During the 1977-78 year, Project Cool worked intensively with approximately 100 students. The total involvement of the superintendent, the associate superintendent, the director of the project and the principal of the three schools in which the ALC’s are located is phenomenal, accounting in large part for the success of the project. Great things seem to be taking place in helping the junior high students who are potential dropouts turn themselves around and feel better about themselves. A strong component of the program is the close cooperation with school and community agencies including guidance counselors, school psychologists, the police and a group called Youth for Christ. The centers provide excellent dissemination of information which keep students, teachers and parents informed about the ALC.

The presence of Project Cool has helped decrease truancies, suspensions, expulsions, acts of physical violence and discipline referrals.

For more information contact: John Smith, Director Project Cool High Point Public Schools PO Box 789 High Point, N.C. 27261 (919) 885-5161

Reprinted courtesy of Creative Discipline, Vol. 1, No. 9, published by the American Friends Service Committee Southeastern Public Education Program.