HENRY COUNTY, Va. – Positive peer pressure. That's the idea behind Henry County's plan to achieve better attendance and behavior.
This comes as schools across Virginia are trying new ways to get students in the classroom since attendance is now tied to school accreditation.
"Good job! You're here today because you've done everything we've asked you to do and you all have worked really hard on our character traits," Renee Scott, the Rich Acres Elementary School principal, told an excited group of students who were being celebrated for doing all the right things.
Scott says they are using PBIS --- or Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. Thousands of others schools across the country are also using PBIS.
"I think it's changed our whole atmosphere. Teachers spend a lot less time on discipline problems now and more encouraging kids and focusing on academics, which is really what we're about," said Scott.
Students earn their way to fun days filled with games and food at the elementary and middle schools.
"What I've noticed is the kids work so much harder when they think that their behavior is going to be rewarded. They really enjoy the positive feedback," said Scott.
It's part of a broader approach to increasing attendance at all Henry County schools now that it's tied to school accreditation. .
"We know obviously sometimes students get sick and we certainly want them to stay home if they're sick because we don't want them to come to school when they're not feeling well but what we have noticed is when we have positive incentives for students that tends to motivate them to come to school," said Monica Hatchett, the Henry County Director of Communications & Organizational Learning.
Hatchett said the efforts are paying off with a small increase in attendance. In the seven schools with PBIS, they've seen a one-half increase in attendance overall.
"For us what's important is our students are here as much as possible because we know when they're not here they're not learning as much as they could be," said Hatchett.
There are smaller awards, too.
"The golden spatula, golden plunger and the golden ruler for behavior in the cafeteria, the bathrooms in the hallway, the lines. Our staff gets to choose who has the best behavior. It certainly puts pressure on the other students," said Scott.
5th grade student Lexi Oakes looks forward to coming to school more now that she has days like these to look forward to.
"You get to have fun and just be with your friends," said Oakes.
It's positive peer pressure-- that's working.
"It's truly transformed the culture of our school," said Scott.
Right now, PBIS is used in half of the Henry County schools but next year, it will be used across the board. At the high school level, if students miss more than three days in a six-week period, their grade drops to the highest F, unless they can provide things like a doctor's note.