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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation to provide teachers an extra tool for the important work they do. This legislation will expand an approach that is successfully improving student behavior and the climate for learning in thousands of schools across the country: Positive Behavior Supports. I am pleased to be joined by Senators DURBIN and SANDERS in introducing the Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act, and I urge other colleagues to join us.

Good school climate supports good teaching. Positive Behavior Supports are already being used in my home State of Illinois, where there is a network to provide assistance for schools that adopt this approach. In these schools, students are taught about positive behavior, teachers and administrators are supported in learning motivational techniques, and adults set the same high standards for student conduct as they do for student achievement. Students are helped to see the importance of behaving in a way so that they and their classmates can learn. The components necessary to do this on a school-wide basis include an agreement by the entire staff to define and support appropriate student behavior. Although this seems simple, it is often more effective than surveillance cameras, zero tolerance or other get-tough approaches to school discipline.

Positive Behavior Supports programs deal with discipline problems based on one simple premise: stop problem behavior before it starts. The specifics of the program are research-based, backed by both experiment and experience. With Positive Behavior Supports, learning time increases, and students do better. It makes sense that with fewer disruptions, with less time in the principal's office, or out of school, students can focus more, and so learn more.

Positive Behavior Supports are already established in many places. Universities and resource centers work with over 6,700 schools in 38 States. To help teachers teach our children, today I propose that we expand this innovative program. The Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act amends ESEA to allow Title I funds to be used for Positive Behavior Supports, and creates an office in the Department of Education to assist in these efforts. The act provides flexibility for schools and districts to use Title I funds, so that schools and teachers can choose to receive assistance to improve school climate and thereby support teaching and opportunities for students to learn.

My good friend from Illinois, Congressman PHIL HARE, has introduced companion legislation in the House, and I urge my colleagues to join our effort in the Senate. Let us give our teachers an additional tool to support their teaching. Let us give our children the benefit of high expectations and supports for good behavior. Let us give our schools the opportunity to adopt this approach. Let us help our kids by supporting Positive Behavior Supports.


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