ASPIRE program promotes positive behavior

A program at Monticello High School is transforming traditional in-school suspension (ISS) from an isolation pod to a platform that encourages students to make better choices and learn how to manage their emotions. The program, called ASPIRE (Achieving Success through Preparation, Inspiration, Readiness and Enthusiasm), was implemented at the start of the 2015-16 school year in an effort to create meaningful change in students’ behavior.

“We wanted to create a program that focuses on improving, rather than punishing behavior,” said Stephen Wilder, principal of Monticello High School.

A student is assigned to ASPIRE when their behavior choices warrant ISS. While traditional ISS is more punitive in nature, the ASPIRE program incorporates a more restorative approach and implements therapeutic group lessons, along with reflection worksheets and individual counseling to help uncover the underlying causes of the students behavior, and assists students in the process of learning from their mistake.

A typical day in ASPIRE begins with the student filling out a daily planning and reflection sheet under the guidance of the ASPIRE professional. Once the daily goals are set, the student then begins working toward the tasks at hand, which include academic assignments as well as a social-emotional learning task that aligns with the area of infraction. For example, a student who may have been assigned to ASPIRE as a result of an anger outburst (such as using profanity toward a teacher or fighting with a peer) would have the opportunity to participate in an anger management course led by the social worker in the room. Students are also asked to reflect upon the behaviors that resulted in their assignment to ASPIRE and to identify more positive and productive choices for the future.

At the close of the day, an ASPIRE supervisor completes a rubric form to determine whether a student would benefit from additional time in ASPIRE, or if they may return to a traditional classroom setting.

Michael Regan, a social worker at Monticello High School who assisted with the development and implementation of the program, said he is confident that ASPIRE is an asset to the high school.

“ASPIRE is an innovative program that enables students to transform their mistakes into learning experiences that will guide them on their journey to a bright and successful future,” he said. “Every student deserves an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and it is my mission to show them that this school believes in their ability to be greater than the average.”