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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research: Classroom Management & School Culture:
Implications for School Policy

Research Summary

Implications for School Policy

A group of teachers initiated a school-wide rewards and consequences program with the aim of improving the school climate of MS 144 (1,064 students and 105 teachers), a middle school in the Bronx, NY. The rewards included token rewards called Gotchas that students earned for acts good citizenship for which they were rewarded with raffles, parties, and participation in Academy field days outside. The consequences involved a Demerit system in which students were penalized for violating school rules and policies for which they served lunch detention. Increased student involvement and communication efforts were made. Results from the New York City Learning Environment Survey from 2007 were compared to February, 2008 results to assess changes in teacher and student perceptions of school climate. Teacher (N = 43) perceptions improved by 7%, exceeding the citywide average, which suggests a possible relationship. Student (N = 663) perceptions did not change. A collaborative learning community formed through the process of implementation that included teachers and administration but not students. A lack of student input and involvement as well as delays in implementation may explain the lack of change for students

The teachers, administration, and staff at MS 144 in the Bronx will best promote good citizenship in their students by cultivating a collaborative community in which students are rewarded for acts of good citizenship, receive clear consequences for failing to follow school policies, and are included in planning these rewards and consequences for their classes, their Academies, and their school.


  • A School Climate Program that promotes good citizenship through rewarding specific behavior and providing clear consequences for those who do not follow nonnegotiable school policies will help to improve student perceptions of school climate if:
    • The program focuses on the rewarding the students.
    • Students are involved in the planning process.
    • Students are rewarded for their efforts to maintain the program.
    • Consequences are clear and consistently enforced.
    • The school administration, teachers, and staff continue to collaborate in their efforts to improve the school and overcome obstacles faced by improvement efforts.


  1. Increase student involvement beyond the roles of class officers.
    • Have students on the School Committee from every Academy and grade.
    • Allow students to come up with their rewards. For example, encourage teachers to have their classes come up with their own class rewards for Gotchas.
    • Have students come up with classroom-specific criteria for earning a Gotcha in each class.
    • Have a student broadcast any announcements concerning the SCP over the loudspeaker during morning announcement time.
  2. Embrace the positive. It has been our strength this year.
    • Reward our 8th grade students who received the most Gotchas with a “Citizenship Award” at graduation.
    • Concentrate on improving behavior outside of the classroom in a positive way. Hallway and cafeteria workers should focus more on Gotchas than on giving Demerits.
  3. Continue to build a Collaborative Learning Community.
    • The School Climate Committee must be composed of the following: Coordinator; At least two strong teachers from each Academy; Guidance Counselor; Dean; School Ade; Security guard; Students; Parent representative
    • The Committee should meet with the Principal and Assistant Principals once a month to maintain communication.
    • The school should perform at least two discussion-based professional developments to hear the teacher’s voice.
    • The school should assess teacher and student perspectives in September and January with an abbreviated version of the NYC Learning Environment Survey.
    • The school should continue to ask teachers outside of the SCC to get involved in the program.
    • The school should create a Coordinator position that opens at least two periods per week for the School Climate Committee leader to devote to directing the program.
  4. Provide clear guidelines for tracking and submitting Demerit and Gotcha results.
    • Communicate clearly the responsibilities of class officers at the time of election in September.
    • Have consequences, such as probation and replacement, for those who do not fulfill their duties.
    • Reward students who participate in maintaining the program.
  5. Keep consequences clear and enforceable.
    • Students must review what they are being punished for and reflect on those actions at the time of punishment so that they are not left feeling their punishment is unfair.
    • Demerits must be tracked daily with the reason for the Demerit displayed in the classroom so that students are aware of their consequences.
    • Homeroom teachers must be informed when students are repeatedly receiving Demerits for the same offenses so that they can contact a family member.
    • Hold detention after-school on Mondays and Fridays. It can either be paid (~ $80 per week total) or teachers can swap their detention time with extended-day time on another day that week.
    • Only qualified teachers, as judged by the Assistant Principals, should handle detention.
  6. Emphasize best practices with teachers. Demerits are not intended to be in-the-class discipline measures. That is why hitting, throwing, and disruptive behavior are not included on the Demerit Sheet. They are intended to remove non-negotiable behaviors. The old saying goes, “the best classroom management is invisible.”


Gabriel Thompson

Research Focus:
Classroom Management & School Culture

TNLI Affiliate:
New York City

Michelangelo Middle School (MS 144)

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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