Here’s how Oprah could get another good idea in Milwaukee — visit Penfield Montessori

Alan Borsuk:

Every student and family is involved in programs aimed at good behavior, emotional control, and engagement in school. A smaller number of students with more needs get more attention. And a few students need and get individualized help.

Kim Burg, one of the counselors who works at the school, said the school is teaching kids to do “hard things” that put them on good paths both for academics and behavior.

It requires teachers and counselors to do hard things, too. “There is no quick fix,” said Heather Rotolo, director of the behavior clinic at Penfield Children’s Center. “It takes hard work and determination and just plugging away.”

Alan Burkhard, a professor at Marquette University who works with Ph.D. candidates in counseling, is spending one day a week at Penfield Montessori this year, assessing what is working and helping shape the staff’s work.

It’s too early to have research results, but Burkhard is encouraged by the school’s substantial and continuous commitment to the behavior program.

“The longer you persist with this, the better the results you get,” he said. The payoff will be there when the students are in third or fourth grade, and beyond. Conversely, he said, if issues are not addressed early, effective help is much harder when kids are older – say, in high school.