- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A new behavior modification program that stresses accountability is changing the lives of some parents and their children in Lincoln Public Schools, they say.

The program is aimed at students whose behavior problems have disrupted classrooms and made it impossible for the students to learn. The program employs a strict behavioral code, positive reinforcement for good behavior and provides opportunities that students can take advantage of - or lose - if they misbehave or blow off their schoolwork.

In May the district signed a three-year contract with Pennsylvania-based Specialized Education Services to implement its program at the Sherrill Education Center for elementary and middle school students. The program costs $290,000 for the first year, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1zrMSrp ). Two consultants from Success Schools have worked with the Lincoln students and trained 16 teachers, as well as administrators and therapists.

Officials said Sherrill’s hallways are mostly quiet now, and students read, write and listen to their teachers in class. They all wear the required khakis and black polo shirts. They walk with their hands clasped behind their backs as they go to and from classes.

A program administrator, Teri Ourada, said academic performance has improved substantially, keeping pace with students in their home schools.

“There are similar programs out there,” said Matt McNally, one of the consultants. “The big thing we do is the accountability factor, holding everyone accountable from top to bottom, students (and) staff.”

The district’s Child Guidance Center executive director, Carol Crumpacker, said she’s still not sure the extreme structure is necessary, but the change is obvious.

“The difference is dramatic, so you know kids are going to be learning more when the environment is calmer,” she said.

April Gertsch, whose son is a seventh-grader at Sherrill, said she had tried everything to help him, including emergency psychiatric services. He started at Sherrill last year, but the change so far this school year with the new program has been amazing.

He cut his hair. His F’s have turned to A’s and B’s. He talks about college. He takes responsibility for his actions.

“It’s like they tear them down but then build them into young men,” Gertsch said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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