One of the problems with CICO is that it works. Students get frequent doses of positive, pre-corrective feedback throughout the day, and generally, incidents of unexpected behavior tend to go down dramatically for most students who participate. But, this likely happens for reasons we might not actually want, and may even prevent students’ long-term growth.
The idea in traditional CICO is that after 6-8 weeks of having external regulators (teachers and coaches) prompt students’ behavior, students will develop habits that don’t require prompting. But what if the opposite were true? What if the only reason student behavior improves is because we’ve provided frequent doses of external motivation, and never connect the goals we have for students to goals that they have for themselves?
Orange Grove Middle School is a school that I have worked with for three years to build Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). They are a large middle school in Catalina Foothills Unified School District, and what I’ve always enjoyed about working with Orange Grove is that they are both systematic and responsive when designing supports for their students. Over the last two years, they’ve challenged me and their Tier 2/3 PBIS team to re-think traditional CICO in ways that centralize the voices most commonly missing on PBIS teams: the children and youth that we serve.
So far, the result looks like this:
- Step 1: Students meet defined data-based entrance criteria. (Three office referrals in six weeks is a common threshold for CICO.)
- Step 2: A trained coach meets with a student at the beginning of the day to pre-teach strategies to help students demonstrate school values and expectations.
- Step 3: Teachers provide feedback and collect data on students’ success throughout the day.
- Step 4: Students meet with their coach at the end of the day to review the day and plan for tomorrow.
This is a lot like traditional check-in check out, except that there’s one tiny little step in between Step 1 and Step 2.
- Step 1.5: A trained coach meets with the student, explains the reason for the meeting, and says, “What do you think would help you get the most out of school?”
Step 1.5 changes everything about traditional CICO. In fact, Step 1.5 challenges the fundamentals of PBIS, at least as practiced in most schools. By asking youth for their perspective on their own data, coaches are now able to focus coaching conversations around what matters most to youth. Often, what matters most isn’t something that school adults anticipated when making expectations. For example, many schools assign students to CICO on the basis of referrals, but don’t spend much time considering what the referrals are for. Students receive generic feedback based on school expectations, and usually only get specific feedback if their coach notices a specific struggle area on their daily point card. (Personally, I have a hunch that the daily point card isn’t necessary, and I’d be eager for a school that has the same hunch to contact me so we can find out together, but that’s a different topic.)
Orange Grove takes the opposite approach. Each student participating in CICO develops a tiny, highly focused goal that addresses the reason they were referred to CICO in the first place. Coaches help students develop goals by asking students what they think would help them get the most out of school. Then, students come up with at least a dozen possible ideas. Together, coaches and students sort their ideas two times: First from “Most Helpful” to “Least Helpful,” and then from “Easiest” to “Most Difficult.” Usually, there are at least one or two ideas that are both relatively easy and helpful in terms of reaching their goal. This becomes the focus of CICO, ensuring that the coach’s role is to help students achieve success as defined by students themselves.
What Orange Grove Middle School has done to place their youth at the center of their behavioral supports is beautiful, and I would be thrilled to help you and your team to do the same. However, if you’ve already built a traditional CICO system, you still have many opportunities to tailor your coaching conversations to goals that matter to your students. Without changing anything about how CICO works, coaches could ask students what they hope to get out of the day and to think about one small action they could take to make it happen. Small and consistent actions build positive habits from the inside out, and as habits grow stronger, students don’t need us to explain the connection between effort and results. Rather, they see it for themselves.
If you’d like to talk more about what Orange Grove is doing, click here and schedule a time to meet. It’s always free to talk.