Longer lunch period proves an effective motivation for Ogden teens

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 12:51 p.m. MST

OGDEN — Two Ogden high schools are hoping to curb tardiness and bad grades by offering teenagers what they value most: time to socialize.

Students who get fewer than three tardies during any given week and have no grades below a C-minus receive a privilege card that entitles them to an hour-long lunch. Students who don't meet that criteria have a 30-minute lunch period and the other 30 minutes are spent working on assignments individually or with a teacher.

"We've seen that it's created some enthusiasm," said Ben Smith, principal at Ben Lomond.

And administrators are seeing results. Stacey Briggs, principal at Ogden High, said tardies have been cut in half since last year. Ben Lomond saw tardies drop from an average of 115 per day during last year's first term to about 78 per day this year.

"The kids are mindful about the tardies," Smith said. "They know what their grades are."

The new program is an example of positive behavior reinforcement, an approach educators commonly use to make motivate teens when traditional punitive measures — like detention — fail.

"Socialization is always a great reward for teenagers because they love to hang out and spend time together," Briggs said.

Grades and tardies are tallied every Friday, and students receive a privilege card for the following week if they meet the established criteria. Smith said there is still plenty of room for improvement, but they've already seen a difference in the number of 'F' grades earned by students who routinely struggle.

"They (now have) one or two for the majority of those kids — it's not five or six," Smith said.

That's likely because they get needed one-on-one instruction and assistance from teachers whose classes the students are failing.

"The teachers are able to give some interaction and some feedback and instruction," he said.

The halls are clear and students are quiet during the 30-minute period, and students actively try to get to class, Briggs said. But first period is still a struggle, as the first bell for the day rings early.

The main reason it's been working at Ben Lomond, Smith said, is because teachers have bought into the idea.

"Every teacher has an assignment," he said.

Some are tasked with monitoring the lunch room or the parking lot during the extended lunch to keep an eye on students with privilege cars. Other teachers man their classrooms to help students who don't have privilege cards.

"It's created quite a stir of enthusiasm, and it's been a real positive thing for our school," Smith said.

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com, mrichards@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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