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Brookhaven Middle School principal Larry Collier directs Eighth-grader Caroline Taylor off the basketball court with her new bicycle following a presentation at halftime of a recent basketball game. Collier awarded four bicycles to students for academic and behavioral achievements during the presentation. He has awarded 12 bicycles so far this school year.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Brookhaven Middle School principal Larry Collier directs Eighth-grader Caroline Taylor off the basketball court with her new bicycle following a presentation at halftime of a recent basketball game. Collier awarded four bicycles to students for academic and behavioral achievements during the presentation. He has awarded 12 bicycles so far this school year.

Rewarding new rides
School awards bikes for student achievement

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com· 340-2432

Brookhaven Middle School student Rayna McGuire was the envy of her fellow students.

The eighth-grader is among 12 students to receive a new bicycle for excelling academically or making behavioral improvements during the first semester.

Rayna got the purple and white bike for scoring a 100 on the Pacing Guide, a test that measures her reading aptitude.

But then she gave it away.

“I gave it to charity,” Rayna said. “I already had a bike, so somebody else probably needed it more than me.”

Principal Larry Collier didn’t have a problem with Rayna’s act of generosity even though the bicycle cost about $80. He bought the bicycles with a private donation.

“That’s awesome,” Collier said. “It shows a lot of integrity and character on her part.”

Collier is instituting a program based on Marvin Marshall’s book, “Discipline Without Stress, Punishments or Rewards.” The book features four levels of social responsibility:

  • Anarchy — Out of control.
  • Getting bossed — Needing to be told what to do.
  • Cooperation or conformation — Acting appropriately.
  • Democracy — The ability to use self-direction.
  • Being socially responsible

    Assistant Principal Johnnie Renick said the students learned the levels of social responsibility, and school officials will often ask about which level they’re on at indiscriminate times.

    Collier said research shows that offering incentives is important to students attending schools with high poverty rates and they improve standardized test scores. Brookhaven is a Title I school with 78 percent of its students qualifying for the federal free-or-reduced lunch program, a measurement used to gauge poverty in a school.

    “A lot of urban school districts are having success in offering incentives,” he said.

    Brookhaven is the only district in The Daily’s coverage area offering similar incentives for achievement and good behavior. Union Hill School and Priceville High have a recognition program that rewards students for academic achievement.

    Brookhaven gave away eight bicycles at an assembly before Christmas because Collier wanted to recognize the honored students and give the remainder of the student body incentive to achieve and act appropriately.

    Discipline an issue

    Students qualify for the reward through scoring well on Pacing Guide and ThinkLink assessments. Behavior is a major component of the reward. Collier said discipline has been an issue at his school in recent years. Brookhaven is the only school in the city with its own student resource officer. Other city schools share officers.

    “It’s a reflection of our community,” Collier said. “It’s not unusual for high poverty areas to have problems with crime and violence, and sometimes that applies to us.”

    Collier said the bicycles definitely made an impression on the students.

    “There sure were a lot of oohs and aahs from the students,” Collier said.

    “And the kids who got the bikes were so excited.”

    Seventh-grader Cassandra Hept also got a bike for a 100 on the Pacing Guide. She said she rides her pink bicycle almost every day.

    “They were jealous,” Cassandra said, of her classmates’ reaction.

    Collier gave away four more bicycles Thursday evening at halftime of the eighth-grade girls basketball game with rival Cedar Ridge because he wanted the parents to know how well their children are doing.

    Collier said he believes the rewards are working.

    He said several of the students receiving bikes went from being constantly in trouble last year to very few disciplinary referrals (trips to the principal) so far this year.

    “Overall, this has been the best year so far disciplinewise that I’ve had in my nine years as principal,” Collier said. “The students are just making better decisions. The teachers are also trying to be more consistent with the discipline.”

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