California Distinguished School Narrative


In response to the ABC Unified School District's (ABCUSD) Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) goal that states, "district schools will include research-based, school-wide behavioral support systems and practices that will lead to decreased suspension and expulsion rates and an increased sense of safety and school connectedness by students, parents, and teachers" (Goal #6), a team of Cerritos High School (CHS) staff members attended a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) training  in September, 2015. Following the initial training, the team agreed that all CHS students would benefit, socially and academically, from a positive school and classroom-wide culture via PBIS tenets. 

A representative team of administrators, counselors, teachers, classified staff, and students were recruited to be trained and help lead CHS through the implementation of "The Cerritos Way."  As PBIS uses a Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) model, there was a commitment to a multi-year implementation process that would include three separate tiers of interventions: Tier I - "Primary Prevention"; Tier II -  Secondary Prevention; and Tier III - Tertiary Prevention.

The "Primary Prevention" Tier impacts the vast majority (80-85%) of students and occurs, generally, at the classroom level through instructing and encouraging positive school-wide expectations and employing effective classroom prevention practices. The "Secondary Prevention" Tier involves a smaller population (10%) of students who have learning and behavioral histories that put them at risk of engaging in more serious problem behaviors and are supported through regular progress monitoring and counseling. For the smallest percentage (5%) of students who do not respond to the first two tiers of intervention, the "Tertiary Prevention" provides intensive, individual supports provided by the school's Psychologist and an interdisciplinary team. 

In the first four years (2015-2019) of the implementation of "The Cerritos Way," three distinct interdisciplinary teams were established to manage each of the three tiers of intervention.  Each team participates in "tier-specific" training, monitors student progress with data, and delivers professional development to the general staff. 

With an understanding that "Primary Prevention" is the most crucial tier within "The Cerritos Way," CHS established a "Cerritos Way Instruction" (CWI) team in 2017 to provide teachers with regular professional development on classroom processes, plans, and strategies designed to enhance student engagement and reduce behavioral problems. 

Implementation and Monitoring

CHS' original PBIS team was very strategic in rolling out the "Cerritos Way" framework to ensure staff ownership.   The team's initial presentation to the staff  eschewed the word ‘program' and focused, instead, on the words ‘framework,' ‘system,' and ‘culture.'  The team emphasized that, though based on PBIS theory and research, the "Cerritos Way" would be customized to CHS' needs and developed with input from staff, students, and parents. Furthermore, all presentations and trainings would be delivered by teacher leaders to diminish any perception of this approach being a "top-down" initiative. The team's initial goal was to get 80% of the staff to commit to the process. Following the first presentation, an initial survey exceeded the 80% goal. Indeed, the earliest survey results indicated that close to 90% of the staff were committed to making "The Cerritos Way" an integral part of the school culture.

Through solicitation, CHS administrators established a Tier I (Primary Prevention) team comprised of four teachers, two counselors, two administrators, and two students. During the 2015-16 school year, this "Cerritos Way Behavior" (CWB) team attended five all-day educational conferences provided by ABCUSD in conjunction with the PBIS CalTAC (California Technical Assistance Center). Throughout the year, CWB provided professional development during the school's monthly faculty collaborations on Wednesday mornings. Separate trainings were arranged for Classified staff members. After surveying staff, students, and parents, on what they felt were ‘undesirable' and ‘desirable' behaviors, CWB determined that there were three behaviors that all stakeholders felt should be emphasized: attendance, mutual respect, and academic honesty. From the stakeholder input, CWB unveiled CHS' School Wide Behavioral Expectations: All Cerritos High School students will strive to be "Ready" (at school and on time), "Respectful" (tolerant, empathetic, caring), and "Real" (academically honest in everything they produce).

Along with teachers explicitly teaching and promoting the "3 R's", the school implemented measures to promote "The Cerritos Way" to all students throughout the school year. Colorful and informative "Cerritos Way" posters were placed in every classroom and defined what it means to be Ready, Respectful, and Real in the hallways, in the library, in the front office, in the food lines, in the quad, at assemblies, and in the parking lot. Large "Way to Go" banners are strategically placed throughout the school to remind students of behavioral expectations. At the start of each year, the school's "kick off" assembly focuses on components of "The Cerritos Way." Throughout the year, the school's internal broadcasting system, CHTV, regularly airs messages and skits extolling "The Cerritos Way." 

To further encourage CHS's school-wide behavioral expectations, CWB established an acknowledgment system that recognizes individual students for exemplifying the "Cerritos Way."  All teachers are given several "Way to Go" tickets that they are encouraged to distribute to students for being Ready, Respectful, and/or Real. Students place a detachable stub from the ticket into a box in the front office for a monthly raffle.  CWB has deemed the last Wednesday of every month as, "Way to Go Wednesdays." On that day, five tickets are randomly drawn from the box and the Principal, along with several LINK Crew members, surprise the students in their third-period classes with a chance to spin a prize wheel.  As CWB student surveys revealed that students prefer "food-related" prizes, each spoke of the wheel contains local restaurant gift cards. Before spinning, each student explains what behavior earned him/her the "Way to Go" ticket. The emphasis is on rewarding the "behavior," not the individual student. 

For the 2016-17 school year, a Tier II (Secondary Prevention) team consisting of two teachers, two counselors, and administrator was established and trained in secondary supports through ABCUSD-sponsored in-services.  The foundation of Tier II support is embedded in a "Check In, Check Out" (CICO) system. Teachers nominate students who are not succeeding at Tier I behavioral interventions. Those students are assigned a staff member who meets, individually, with Tier II students before and after school. Teachers of Tier II students complete a quick CICO form that ranks the students' daily efforts at being Ready, Respectful, and Real. These forms are reviewed with the student at the end of each day during the "Check Out." For the 2018-19 school year, CHS funded a TOSA section for one teacher to manage CICO students.

In 2017-18, CHS established a Tier III (“Tertiary Prevention”) team comprised of a teacher, administrator, and the school Psychologist to receive ABCUSD training to support students with more intensive interventions and monitoring with the collaboration of available Integrated Mental Health Systems.

With the understanding that the efficacy of "The Cerritos Way" was reliant on effective classroom instruction and management strategies at the Tier I level, the school established a "Cerritos Way Instruction" (CWI) team of six teachers who provide regular training on instructional strategies that increase student engagement and support Tier I intervention goals. Focusing on techniques from Teach Like a Champion, CWI provides regular training on concrete, easy to implement strategies that teachers can use to keep students engaged, focused, and learning. CWI trainings, to date, have covered the topics of "Wait Time," "Slow Calls," "Positive Framing," "Building Radar," and "Compliance Strategies."

Results and Outcomes

Four years ago, CHS embarked on a journey to enact a school-wide framework to positively impact student behavior, academic achievement, and school culture. Just four years old, “The Cerritos Way” is still in its early stages and continues to evolve, grow, and improve through an ongoing process of progress monitoring, data analysis, and continuous evaluation. If the early data points are any indicator, though, “The Cerritos Way” has already helped CHS “come a long way” in helping students become more Ready, Respectful, and Real.

Since its implementation in the 2015-16 school year, “The Cerritos Way” has supported students in improving their "Readiness" at school. The school’s Average Daily Attendance rate stands at a lofty 97.5% and there has been an average of 2,900 fewer marked tardies for all classes for each of the past three school years (2015: 21,402; 2018:18,045 ). Similarly, the Truancy Rate dropped 14.4% (2015: 38.4%; 2018: 24.4%) and the Chronic Absentee Rate was cut in half (2015: 9.0%; 2018: 4.3%).


Additionally, data indicate that “The Cerritos Way” has helped CHS students become more “Respectful." Since the inception of “The Cerritos Way” four years ago, CHS has seen the School-wide Suspension Rate drop by 2.7% (2015: 3.1%; 2018: .4%).

Finally, “The Cerritos Way” has promoted academic honesty and encouraged students to be more “Real” in the school work they produce. Since the 2014-15 school year, CHS has seen a 58% drop in office referrals for Academic Dishonesty (2015: 72;  2018: 30).


Ultimately, CHS' adoption of "The Cerritos Way" framework not only enhanced the school culture with student behavioral gains but also had a positive impact on the school academically. An already low Drop Out Rate has diminished further by .7% (2015: .9%; 2018: .2%). CHS' A-G Graduation Rate has increased by 13.1% (2015: 55.4%; 2018: 69.1%). CHS' CAASPP scores, too, have shown steady growth in the past four years. CAASPP Math Scores have increased 6.2% (2015: 57%; 2018: 63.2%) and ELA performance has increased 7.6% (2015: 77%; 2018: 84.6%).


Annually, an outside PBIS Coach assesses the progress of "The Cerritos Way" with a Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI). In evaluating the substantial growth in the school's TFI scores for the first three years, the California PBIS Coalition conferred a "Silver PBIS Implementation Award" for CHS in 2018. PBIS research indicates that the full implementation of a Positive Behavioral Intervention Support system takes most schools up to ten years to accomplish. So, Cerritos High School is well aware that there is more room for growth and development. But, we're on the way..."The Cerritos Way".