"We just love our kids,” says Mrs. Margaret Carvajal, the school counselor. “We focus on giving each child lots of support and attention.” Through the Positive Action program, Noonan Elementary has achieved not only a caring, encouraging climate, but also increased test scores. “We challenge our third and fourth graders,” Carvajal explains, “to do a good job on their Texas Assessment Skills test. If they get good scores, then our principal, Mr. John Jackson, dresses up as Mrs. Jackson, Elvis, a gorilla, or King Greeno from Planet Green.
“The kids really get into it. They send him notes, they make up Positive Action cheers, and they participate in activities like ‘The Top 15 Reasons to Love Positive Action.’ The kids love him and they love Positive Action. He’s a brilliant motivator and our students respond with great enthusiasm.”
Noonan Elementary has approximately 550 students, Pre-K–4, and is one of seven elementary schools in Alice, Texas, about 40 miles inland from Corpus Christi and the Gulf of Mexico. Before Positive Action, Noonan was in trouble.
“When I came to Noonan,” Jackson explains, “it was a rough place. About 80 percent of our children were from low-income homes, and 85–95 percent of our community is Hispanic. We had a lot of ‘gang wannabes’ and the kids were causing all kinds of disruption. We wanted a safe, orderly environment so that our kids could learn. I found a Positive Action brochure and called the company. They supported our efforts while we got the program up and running.”
One of the challenges the school faced was teacher buy-in. After the first few years, all the remaining teachers were enthusiastic about the program. “The time investment lessened their disciplinary activities, which bought them even more time,” Jackson says. “Now our teachers and staff are at the core of our success.”
“Our philosophy is to teach the whole child,” explains Carvajal, “and the Positive Action program helps us teach social and emotional skills—the part of our curriculum not covered by our academic subjects. It adds a quality to our curriculum that’s hard to describe. Positive Action gives us a common language to talk to our kids about these essential things.”
“Being a Positive Action kid is a big deal in our school. They are really proud of their certificates and trophies. We have secret patrols that watch for positive actions in each class, in the cafeteria, and on the campus. The class in each grade level with the most positive actions gets to keep a pass-around trophy for a time. We celebrate our students’ positive actions over morning announcements, as well as in our Positive Action assemblies.”
“The assemblies are creative and fun,” Jackson says. “It’s how we link the program to parents; it’s a part of our PTA program. We send news of our achievements to our local paper.”
“Our parents are involved in a big way and our superb staff is dedicated to the program. They teach the lessons faithfully, and they recognize and reward positive actions every day,” says Carvajal. The principal and the staff—including our kitchen staff and our maintenance crew, as well as our teachers and administrative people—believe in the program.”
“When we started the Positive Action program, we were at the 11th percentile in writing; now we are consistently in the 90th percentiles,” Jackson reports. “We are the second largest elementary school in our district and we are recognized as one of the top 25 percent of the schools in Texas academically. Our walls are covered with trophies and plaques we’ve received over the years for our efforts—academically and behaviorally. Our test scores, which started out low 16 years ago, have steadily climbed over the years, and we have very few negative behaviors.”
“I’ve been an educator for 32 years,” Carvajal laughs. “Positive Action helps me handle anything that comes my way!"