Designing an approach to discipline and social needs

Teacher-powered teams can secure autonomy to determine discipline policies for their school as long as they comply with state statutes, including zero-tolerance laws and due process requirements. Depending on the extent of the autonomy your team is able to secure in this area, there might also be school board policies you need to follow.

Another option to consider is pursuing autonomy to address social needs above and beyond what is required by law. For example, many teams adjust teachers’ roles and use their budget autonomy to allocate additional funding for social workers. Your team should consider all of this before negotiating for autonomy.

Here are a few design questions for your team to consider as you think about your school’s approach to student discipline and social needs:

  • Does the school’s approach reflect your team’s shared purpose, including philosophies about
    student learning and behavior?
  • Is this approach reflected throughout the learning program?
  • What opportunities do adults in the community have to model these behaviors and beliefs for


Existing teacher-powered schools' approaches to discipline and social needs

The Coolest School in America: How Small Learning Communities are Changing Everything, Chapter 10

Book. Carrie Bakken, Andrea Martin, and Caitlin Rude from Avalon, a teacher-powered school in Minnesota, describe the process of writing their school’s constitution and creating its Student Congress.

The Coolest School in America: How Small Learning Communities are Changing Everything, Chapter 6

Book. This chapter by Darrol Bussler discusses the principles across a five-fold framework that inform practices at a network of teacher-powered high schools.

Student Congresses Can Do More Than Pick the Prom Theme

Commentary. Kim Farris-Berg writes that when student congresses have a voting branch of school governance, they have actual authority to co-create and co-enforce community norms.

To Make Communities Safer, Trust Students

Commentary. Students suggest that trusting them may be the key to reducing bullying and violence in school. Learn how many teacher-powered schools respond to this need.

Trusting Teachers with School Success: What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots, Chapter 4 (pp. 56-67) and Chapter 8

Book. Chapters 4 and 8 explore how teacher-powered schools tend to address social and discipline problems as part of student learning.

A Year at Mission Hill: Chapter 4, “Love and Limits”

Video. Filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens explore the relationship between social and emotional well being and capacity for intellectual growth, in addition to examining opportunities and obstacles associated with full-inclusion classrooms.

A Year at Mission Hill: Chapter 6, “Like a Family”

Video. Filmmakers Tom and Amy Valens explore the question: How can schools cultivate safe, nurturing spaces for everyone involved in children’s lives?

Specific approaches that contribute to teams' choices

Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades

Book. Teacher Mary Cowhey demonstrates what schools would look like if understanding and respecting differences in race, culture, beliefs, and opinions were at their hearts.

Conscious Discipline

Book and videos. Becky A. Bailey integrates classroom management with social-emotional learning that supports students in learning to manage their own behavior.

The Leader in Me

Book. Stephen R. Covey identifies an approach to whole school transformation that applies the concepts from his "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

Love and Logic® Solutions for Educators

Website. Jim Fay, Foster Cline, and Charles Fay developed the Love and Logic® method of working with students to promote healthy teacher-student relationships and positive schoolwide discipline.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Book. Drawing upon decades of research, psychologist Carol Dweck argues that it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset.

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes

Book. Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating students with incentives seems to work in the short run, it’s a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm.

Restorative Justice:

Website. Use these step-by-step tools to help your team implement supportive, inclusive discipline policies that hold students accountable and improve school climate and safety.

Restorative Justice: A Working Guide for Our Schools

Report. Many teacher-powered schools choose to implement some element of this report as part of their approach to discipline. The Alameda County School Health Services Coalition offers concrete ideas for bringing Restorative Justice into schools.

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences

Book. Dr. Leonard Sax provides insight into the biological differences between boys and girls and how those differences impact the ways children learn, think, and behave.

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