Innovation Spotlight: Arizona

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Connectedness—Safety—Environment are the guiding principles of the Arizona Safe and Supportive Schools (S3) initiative; an initiative that provides services and programming to 26 high schools in 14 districts aimed at creating and maintaining safe and supportive learning environments. A core part of the initiative is using data to implement appropriate programming and measuring the fidelity of what is being implemented.

Through a partnership with the University of Arizona’s College of Education, coaches and trainers provide support for program implementation, including fidelity measures, to the Leadership Core Teams (LCTs). LCTs are comprised of a principal or assistant principal, classified and certified staff members, parents, students, and community partners. The LCT in each school analyzes the survey and incident data, collected annually, to make informed decisions when gauging the progress of S3 objectives, programs, and strategies and in developing processes, policies, and procedures. The LCT is also encouraged to develop sub-committees and engage community partners as active members of the team. Realizing that the LCT is critical to implementation success and sustainability, the Arizona S3 team developed an LCT Checklist to assess the teaming process. In January 2014, the state will have evaluated the components of the teams for the second time.

What does the data say?

For PBIS, 58% of our schools earned 80% or more on the School-wide Evaluation Tool (SET) and 68% of our schools earned 70% or more on the Benchmarks of Quality (BoQ).

The three major prevention/intervention strategies used by the high schools include Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS), BreakAway, and Student Assistance Programs (SAPs). As part of sustainability planning, Arizona S3 has developed and adapted fidelity and benchmark checklists to evaluate implementation continuously, identify strengths and challenges, and assist with annual planning for each of these programs. The checklists are completed in the spring of each year with trainers and coaches providing feedback to the program coordinators and/or teams at their schools.

“The LCT checklist is a good measure as to whether the LCT and the coach are seeing the progress and status of the S3 activities in a similar fashion. It allows me to identify areas where I need to provide more support or resources.”

~Arizona S3 Coach

PBIS was selected by all S3 high schools; it aims to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for all students by guiding the selection, integration, and implementation of evidence-based academic and behavioral practices. Seven high schools are implementing BreakAway, a strategy that focuses on school as a community and uses the youth-adult partnership model. BreakAway provides a framework for creating positive school communities; it emphasizes youth involvement by engaging students as advocates for positive change on campus. A staff member serves as the team “champion” and leads the LCT in changing school conditions such as bullying and drug use. Twenty-two schools have established SAPs in which students are provided with education, prevention, intervention, and support groups where they can express their feelings and concerns while developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

For additional information or to obtain copies of the fidelity and benchmark checklists, contact Rani Collins, S3 Project Director, at

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U.S. Department of Education

The contents of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments Web site were assembled under contracts from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), Contract Number  91990021A0020.

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