HOW ONE SCHOOL IMPROVED ITS TARDY PROBLEM AND CAMPUS CLIMATE IN A SINGLE SEMESTER.
Watsonville High School’s tardy problem was “off the charts” a year ago. With no consistent way to process, track, or assign consequences for tardies, kids took advantage, strolling into class whenever they wanted. (The lack of urgency further emphasized by the occasional Starbucks in hand.) With the help of Hero—and a creative Assistant Principal—that has all changed.
“There was a process before, and it failed.”
Last year, the mornings at Watsonville were the busiest time for tardies, with roughly 200 students needing to be manually checked-in each day. This caused a familiar ripple effect: the front desk was backlogged, the students continued to run the clock while waiting for their passes, and their classes were eventually interrupted. A discipline matrix was in place, but it was lax and hard to enforce with only paper passes to tally and refer to. Overall, this was a very inconsistent and ineffective process.
That is why Mike Perez, Assistant Principal in the area of Safety and Student Development, decided to make a change. He seized the opportunity to cause a shift—not just the quantifiable reduction in tardies, but a shift in the actual culture of his school.
EFFECTING REAL CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.
HERE’S HOW IT WAS DONE AT WATSONVILLE:
Automate the tardy-tracking process.
Not only does automation save manual processing and class instruction time, but it also helps to keep an accurate (and instantly accessible) record of the students’ tardy history. So if this is Sarah’s third tardy, she can no longer hope that the other two passes got lost in a file somewhere. With Hero, her incident history is saved, so her third tardy will always be her third tardy, and she will see this on her printed pass. Instant accountability.
Designate the right student consequences.
Watsonville has a unique weekly schedule, which helped Mr. Perez make an interesting shift his discipline matrix. Every Wednesday is an Early Release Day for teacher collaboration, so he chose to set a new consequence—“Wednesday School”—which is a detention during the early release hours. This was tremendously effective, and was a bigger deterrent to the students than Saturday School was with the previous policy.
Explore simple rules that make a big impact.
The last method of change Mike implemented is something he referred to as, “Just close your doors. We’ll do all the work.” The policy is that when the bell rings, all teachers are to close their doors and begin class. Prior to this it was extremely lax and disruptive. The doors would remain open, students would trickle in without consequences, attendance would need to be re-taken or at least reconciled, and class would start 10-15 minutes late. With the doors closed, a student approaching a classroom got the undeniable signal they were tardy, and had to go back to the front office to document that.
“We have never seen kids run to class, and now we see it on a regular basis.”
Get everyone on board…
Mr. Perez didn’t sugar-coat it—a high percentage of Watsonville’s teachers were hesitant to implement Hero at first. A lot of them had been at the school for years, and were simultaneously doubtful of a new system and jaded by previously unfulfilled promises of change. But when the tardies decreased, the teachers saw the value.
In Mike’s mantra, “Just close your doors. We’ll do all the work,” the “we” refers to Administration, so in his case his fellow administrators also needed to be fully engaged. And they are, as they are the ones fully taking care of the consequences. Mike himself is constantly interacting with Hero. On Wednesdays, he’s running a report to see who should be attending that day’s Wednesday School session. For the bigger picture, he’s looking at cumulative data to start analyzing patterns. What classes are kids going to late? Why are they going to class late? Having this information available helps him further refine and adjust his strategies.
“It has changed the way we teach.”
In just one quarter, Mr. Perez saw a 60% improvement in the number of tardies, but just as importantly, he saw a drastic shift in his school’s culture. For him, holding students accountable for their actions is part of the education process. Learning about time management helps them become responsible, capable, considerate adults.
And to Mike, that’s what it’s all about.