The Effect of Classroom Management on
High School Academic Achievement
by June Kaminski, RN MSN
Classroom management first became a popular topic in education during the 1970's and 1980's, (Tavares, 1996 and Butchart, 1995). The focus in these early years was primarily on behavior management, used to control and shape students' behavior to conform to school rules. Consequences, rewards and punishment were used to guide students to conform to the rules chosen by the classroom teacher. Classroom management using an authoritarian or punitive approach did repress disorderly behavior, but it did not foster student growth or allow the acquisition of more sophisticated modes of learning, such as critical thinking and reflection (Jones, 1995). In the 1990's, a new paradigm of classroom management emerged, based on the democratic process, humanism, and consideration for diversity. Classroom management developed beyond a set of educational techniques to become ",...a complex process in which an environment is constructed in an ongoing, reciprocal manner," (Adler, 1996, p.34). This process included dialogue between teachers and students, reflection on past and current experiences, and looking at how one's behavior affected others in the environment (Schneider, 1996). Rules were mutually agreed upon by the entire class, making them socially valid to the students which provided structure, and helped to develop a productive classroom environment (McGinnis, 1995). Classroom management in high schools often lagged behind strategies used in elementary school classrooms. All too often, classroom management systems built on trust, caring, and support in the lower grades were replaced with compliance and obedience systems once a student entered high school, (Freiberg, 1995). Even in the 1990's, the majority of high school classrooms have been managed by models of teacher control and student obedience. Sheets and Gay (1996), described the widespread discipline problems and disruptive behaviors common in high school classrooms. Overcrowded classrooms, made up of diverse groups of students of varying ethnicity and socioeconomic characteristics, showed extreme levels of disruptions. Canter (1997) estimated that high school teachers spent thirty to fifty percent of their in-class time handling behavior problems. Most of these problems were relatively minor disruptions which originated in the classroom, and were often interpersonal in nature. The disruptive student might ",....challenge teacher authority, interrupt, talk out of turn, respond loudly, argue, react emotionally, or socialize in class, (Sheets and Gay,1996, p.86) Silencing and control of the student's behavior have routinely been used to deal with disruptive situations by removing students from the class, along with verbal reprimands, intimation, or demands for compliance. High school students often reacted to the teachers' attempts at behavior management by responding aggressively, or by employing silence and absence strategies. The student often withdrew from classroom discussions, neglected their assignments, cut class, were truant which usually led to suspension or even expulsion from the school. These subsequent behaviors inevidently led to low academic achievement, and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the student. To break this cycle of teacher control and student compliance patterns, a proactive classroom management process was adopted by some teachers, (McGinnis, 1995). The proactive process focused on fostering student involvement and cooperation in decision-making, setting ground rules, and problem-solving to establish a productive learning environment. Involved students appreciated the classroom environment when they felt accepted as individuals with unique differences and worthwhile opinions. Classroom management which was culturally responsive, and based on developing connectedness and community fostered more class participation,...