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Improving School Climate Through Restorative Practices

The International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) SaferSanerSchools™ program provides a comprehensive two-year implementation model that is working with educators to transform school climate in districts across the United States.

Our experienced team of instructors teaches and coaches school administrators, educators, counselors and support staff the fundamentals of program implementation. They will develop skills to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making. The program helps adults transform the learning environment by engaging students to be active participants in their school community.

RCT Studies

Randomized controlled studies of the SaferSanerSchools™ Whole-School Change program have recently been conducted in:

• 14 Maine schools by the RAND Corporation with funding from the National Institutes of Health

• 15 urban schools nationwide by Johns Hopkins University with funding from Atlantic Philanthropies

• 22 Pittsburgh Public Schools by the RAND Corporation with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative

Benefits of the program include:

  • Reducing student suspensions, expulsions and absenteeism.
  • Narrowing the racial discipline gap.
  • Improving school connectedness.
  • Fostering relationships between staff, students and parents.
  • Enhancing interpersonal and intrapersonal competency skills for
    staff and students.
  • Optimizing instructional time and creating engaged learning

Customized Implementation

Our instructors will work with you to customize the program to address your school and district’s unique needs. Our professional development training provides school staff with practical strategies for building strong, healthy relationships with students, family and colleagues. At the same time, the training teaches an in-depth, formal restorative justice process for addressing harm and wrongdoing.

Restorative practices aligns well with other school culture and climate models your school may be implementing, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). Coaching and Training of Trainers will help your school develop capacity to become skilled practitioners and
continue the program sustainably after the initial stages of implementation are complete.

The IIRP’s “six-periods” approach provides a cost-effective way to achieve lasting change that results in healthier relationships between students, staff and parents while taking a social discipline approach to reducing suspensions and expulsions.

Six-Period Approach

Our six-period approach to program implementation includes:

1. Ramp Up and Readiness

Our work starts with an aggressive ramp-up period six to nine months prior to program launch. The aim is to develop capacity for district and school leaders to implement the SaferSanerSchools™ program with fidelity. School leadership and staff prepare for a successful launch, which includes school climate assessment, orientation, planning, messaging and leadership training.

  • Incorporate Restorative Language in Discipline Policies
  • Build a Restorative Leadership Team (RLT)
  • Preview School Climate Assessment Data
  • Align District and School Vision to Strategic Plan
  • Orient District and School Leaders to Program
  • Schedule Logistics and Operations
  • Meet IIRP Instructor/Coach
2. Restorative Leadership Team Support

The Restorative Leadership Team (RLT) is typically a group of 12 school leaders designated and led by the principal to serve as the restorative practices coordination team. The team is comprised of a cross-sector of staff in the building, such as assistant principals, SLT representatives, multidisciplinary staff, school climate members, academic chairs, teachers and counselors and can include student and parent representatives.

  • Virtual Support
  • Site-Based Coaching
  • Observation and Reflection
  • Data Driven Planning
  • Modeling and Restorative Problem-Solving
  • Program Coordination and Support
3. Training and Facilitation

Professional development trainings are modules in a larger framework that build toward a comprehensive understanding of restorative practices. IIRP instructors provide staff with practical concepts and skills that can be used immediately and provide the foundation for diving deeper on the 11 “Essential Elements.”

  • 2-Day Restorative Leadership Development: Authority with Grace
  • 2-Day Restorative Responses to Adversity and Trauma
  • Introduction to Restorative Practices
  • Using Circles Effectively
  • 2-Day Facilitating Restorative Conferences
  • IIRP Training of Trainers
4. Implementation and Practice

Throughout the implementation process, all staff will participate in Professional Learning Groups (PLGs), which consist of approximately 8-12 staff members. PLGs are participatory learning groups that encourage staff to take active responsibility for implementing and developing high levels of proficiency in the 11 “Essential Elements.” The IIRP Instructor/Coach will facilitate an “Implementation Start-Up” session with all staff at program outset to introduce staff to the PLG process and ensure they can facilitate their own ongoing meetings. The IIRP will also provide meeting protocols, educational resources and online tools to assist these groups in their ongoing learning and development.

  • PLG Startup Session
  • IIRP Educational Resources
  • PLG Meeting Planners and Scripts
  • Learning Activities
  • Norms and Basic Concepts Template
  • Access to Online Video Library
5. Ongoing Monitoring

Achieving lasting school climate change starts with the collection and assessment of school-based data, assessment surveys, anecdotal data and observations. At the outset, the IIRP offers a school climate readiness assessment and, as one measure of proficiency, provides staff self-assessment surveys that cover all of the 11 “Essential Elements.” These surveys ask simple online reflective questions related to behaviors and practices associated with each element. Importantly, IIRP instructors use data throughout program implementation to support informed decision making. Tools include:

  • School Climate Reporting
  • Staff and Student Self-Assessments Measuring Proficiency of Elements
  • Process and Frequency Evaluation
  • Monthly and Annual Reflection
  • Data Reports and Targeted Support
6. Sustainability and Transition

The IIRP believes that sustainability and capacity go hand-in-hand. We offer a wide variety of support services and educational opportunities to maintain, extend and deepen restorative practices implementation after the initial two-year program ends. The end goal is to institutionalize and embed restorative practices as part of school staff’s vocabulary and daily life and pedagogy.

  • Emerging and Distributive Leadership Recognition and Support
  • Sustainability Planning and Scaling (beyond the school)
  • Capacity Building (Licensed trainers through our Training of Trainers program)
  • Continuing Education and Ongoing Learning Through Conferences and Symposia

Highlighted Resources

Improving School Climate: Evidence from Schools Implementing Restorative Practices

Fix School Discipline Educator Toolkit and Community Toolkit

For additional information on evidence of effectiveness, reports and resources, visit the School Resources Page

Featured Videos

Teachers and administrators at Pinellas County Public Schools in Florida share what they appreciate about restorative practices talking circles.

Students, teachers and administrators from West Philadelphia High School explain the impact of restorative practices during one of the IIRP's first urban SaferSanerSchools™ projects.

See more videos.