School Policy Development Process

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll learn how to implement a new school policy. We'll go over some of the preliminary work and research required, as well as the cooperative steps needed to make sure the system is effective.

Schoolwide Policies

When Jamira comes into your class, you ask her to take her hood off. But she insists she's allowed to wear it in Mr. Johnson's class. In addition, while your policy is to take students' phones, another teacher just asks students to put them away. How are students supposed to know how to behave if the expectations aren't consistent?

Unfortunately, this is a source of frustration in many schools. One way to avoid this unnecessary conflict is to implement schoolwide policies, or rules adhered to by the entire school. These policies can focus on behavioral issues or academic problems, such as class materials, homework, or testing. Let's take a look at the steps needed to enact a policy and how you can use them in your school.


Your first job is to decide on a problem. Wearing hoods or hats, as well as other low-level behaviors (small behavioral issues that appear harmless), can cause various problems in your school, including increased classroom conflict and a lack of respect for authority. On the other hand, your problem might be academic; perhaps your students aren't doing their homework or are cheating during tests. It's your job to come up with your problem of practice, or the area on which you would like to focus.

Would you rather have a colleague help you with your practice, or an unannounced observation by your principal? Most people would probably feel more comfortable with a colleague leading them through uncharted territory. This is why your first step should be to appoint a leadership team to run the policy development. The team should consist of everyone who will be implementing the policy, including teachers, support staff, and administrators.

It is important that all staff work collectively to implement a policy
sharing ideas

Next, your leadership team should hold a meeting in which all members can voice their most pressing complaints. A survey online or on paper can accomplish this, and can be anonymous if you'd like to receive the most honest answers. The leadership team should review these responses and then share them at the following meeting.

Planning and Implementation

Once your school has reached a consensus on a problem via discussion at meetings, it's time to make a plan. Your school can start with any one of the many types of schoolwide policies that have been developed through years of research. Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) is one such program. In this program, the entire school lays out behavioral expectations for students. Unlike traditional rules, however, this strategy relies on prevention and positive reinforcement.

For example, when a child develops a negative behavior, you must maintain a clear set of consequences that are consistent throughout the school, such as a call to the student's parents or a conference with support staff. After this short disciplinary act, however, there needs to be an inquiry cycle, through which teachers study what purpose the behavior serves and why it may be occurring. As a result, staff can then address the root of the behavioral problem.

Under some policies, teachers study disruptive behaviors to locate a cause.
taking notes

This is just a single method of developing a schoolwide policy, and even this well-proven model may need adjusting to fit your school. Conversations must be ongoing on the leadership team and routinely presented to staff for feedback. (Remember, the key to successful schoolwide policies is unity.) After making a decision, all staff members are expected to help implement the plan. The schoolwide policy must be consistent in order for the plan to be effective. The leadership team might conduct observations to see if teachers are holding up the policy, but ideally, since the entire school has agreed on the policy together, everyone should feel motivated about implementing the plan. This is another reason why your school needs to come to consensus before implementing.

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