When students aren’t in class, they spend less time learning and outcomes can suffer as a result. Lake Nona, an Orlando-area middle school, felt too many students were losing too much class time. One factor contributing to this was out-of-school suspensions.

In the 2016-17 school year, reports Assistant Principal Damian Rosado, Lake Nona Middle had issued 100 out-of-school suspensions. While some form of discipline is needed in a school setting, leaning heavily on consequence-based punishment was creating a reactionary cycle. And Rosado wanted to curb problems before they started.

Rosado brought HeroRise, an online student behavior improvement platform, to the school in the fall of the 2017-18 school year. Designed as a practical way to implement a positive behavior framework on a schoolwide scale, the application is available to districts and schools. Positive reinforcement programs, which include PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) are shown to be effective at motivating students to make positive behavior decisions and improve overall school culture.

At Lake Nona, Rosado is crediting HeroRise for significant improvements. With HeroRise, the school saw an 80% reduction in out-of-school suspensions, logging just 20 in total for 2017-18 by the spring. In-school suspensions reduced by 40% overall, too.

“HeroRise creates more avenues for educators to acknowledge students, giving students who are seeking recognition the option to make a constructive choice – instead of a negative one,” says Rosado. And that has helped create a cultural shift at the school.

Teachers, staff, and administrators use HeroRise to assign recognition points to students for being on time, following the dress code, and for exhibiting good community values, among other things. These points can be redeemed for various perks, including sporting event tickets, school dances, and even extra credit in some classes. “A lot of the kids, they love getting positive reinforcement points. They love when we send positive notes home,” Rosado reports.

The school is also increasing effective class time with HeroReady, the platform’s tardy improvement module. When students are tardy, Lake Nona uses HeroReady to instantly scan and check in students, replacing time-consuming paper processes.

“Before, kids had a long line at grade level offices,” says Rosado. “Per late student, it took 10 minutes to get a tardy pass and then another 10 minutes for them to get back to class.” That’s 20 minutes of valuable instruction time every tardy student was missing out on. By automating tardy management, Rosado says they’re “getting that lost time back” and regaining effective classroom instruction time.

With streamlined tardy management and a positive behavior program, Rosado has been able to get students in class, more often. With his eyes on improving the learning environment, the more positive culture at Lake Nona “is making all the difference,” he adds.