"These strategies have changed my daughter 100%. She went from being probably the most difficult child in the school, possibly the district, to being a role model and peer model in her school. . . They're using positive behavioral supports, and her turnaround was immediate. She has a very bright future."
- Angela, mother of a North Texas middle-schooler
PBIS helps schools be strategic and thoughtful about student behavior, so all students can succeed. PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It has been shown to improve kids' performance at school, attendance, and grades. It reduces bullying and keeps kids out of trouble.
Instead of waiting for kids to act out, PBIS focuses on prevention--making school a place where behaving appropriately is the norm. The whole school makes expectations for behavior clear and rewards students for meeting expectations. PBIS is not a curriculum, intervention, or practice, but rather a decision-making framework. It guides how a school approaches behavior, from one stage to the next, so learning for all students improves.
In a school with Positive Behavioral Supports. . .
In a school with traditional discipline . . .
Educators take time to demonstrate what is expected of students and make the schools' positive values clear.
Schools give kids a rule book and punish them when they violate the rules.
There is attention to and rewards for behaving right.
Problem behavior is more likely to be acknowledged than positive behavior.
Decisions about the best way to reduce problem behavior are based on data that school staff find helpful.
Punishment for behavior is based on a rule book, not on any research about what works best.
Kids with special needs or mental health challenges are identified and worked with in ways that prevent behavior problems from becoming patterns.
Kids with special needs or mental health challenges may not get the help they need to succeed; sometimes they are removed from class altogether.
Why should schools consider implementing school-wide PBIS? Schools that implement school-wide PBIS have improved academic performance, fewer disciplinary problems, and a greater sense of safety on campus. Some schools have seen up to a 60% reduction in disciplinary incidents following school-wide implementation of PBIS.
How does school-wide PBIS affect education? Fewer disciplinary incidents mean more time for teachers and school administrators to spend on student learning. In one state, 12 schools found they had gained a combined 233 days of administrators' time and 700 days of instruction time for students after implementing PBIS. [Learn more about the research]
How much does PBIS cost to implement? There is no "one-size-fits-all" way to implement PBIS. While some schools choose to seek additional funds and some federal funding is available, most schools can implement PBIS for minimal or no additional money.
How is PBIS being implemented in Texas? PBIS is the recommended approach for addressing challenging behavior in children with disabilities.
Regional Education Service Centers (ESCs) are required to offer Texas
schools training or technical assistance on using PBIS with students
with disabilities. ESCs may offer services related to PBIS, but levels
of support and criteria for participation vary across regions. Also,
there is no systematic leadership, planning, or coordination at the
state level related to the use of PBIS to address behavioral outcomes of
all students--not just special education students. In 2008, just 61
schools in Texas reported implementing school-wide PBIS.
Other schools implement PBIS without support from an ESC, but it is not
known how many, nor how closely they are following best-practices. Some
schools report challenges in sustaining an effective PBIS approach on
If I work in a school, what can I do to bring PBIS here? Implementing PBIS requires building consensus among the administrators, teachers, and staff at your school about implementing this approach and committing as a school to using the PBIS process. You can get started by learning more at www.pbis.org and then:
promote school-wide PBIS to teachers and administrators at your school to get colleagues on board, since school-wide buy-in is crucial for PBIS to work;
coordinate a group of colleagues (teachers, counselors, administrators) to determine how school-wide PBIS should look at your school;
volunteer to be a team leader to coordinate implementation at your school;
support our work to ensure schools receive support from the state in implementing school-wide PBIS.
Can PBIS prevent bullying?
To reduce bullying, it is important to change the climate of the school and the social norms with regard to bullying. Blending bullying prevention with school-wide positive behavior support gives students the tools necessary to increase appropriate responses to bullying incidents, for both victims and bystanders, and to decrease incidents of bullying behavior. When including a bullying prevention component in the implementation of PBIS, a 55-69% reduction in problem behavior has been demonstrated. As part of a larger system of positive behavioral support, bullying prevention is far less resource-intensive and far more likely to be implemented over consecutive years.
What can PBIS do to prevent delinquency?
The #1 predictor of involvement in the criminal justice system is disciplinary actions a student received at school. Reducing the number of disciplinary actions in school through PBIS would reduce the number of today's students ending up in the youth justice system. Valuable criminal justice resources should be redirected into things that protect the public from violent crime, while our teachers and principals need sufficient resources and training to manage students in need of behavioral interventions. Creating a statewide infrastructure to support the implementation of PBIS would allow for the increased resources and training for teachers.
How can PBIS help kids with mental health concerns?
Most schools offer some range of services to support student mental and behavioral health, but these strategies are often fragmented and limited in scope. For students who require more targeted interventions, such as those with mental or behavioral health concerns, PBIS interventions are applied either in group settings or through an individualized plan based on students' needs. PBIS is the recommended intervention for dealing with challenging behavior in children with disabilities. By implementing PBIS, schools would be able to reach students with emotional disturbances and other behavioral needs that are not identified for special education.
Office of Special Education Programs Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports. (2009) What is School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports?
Regional Educational Laboratory. (2010). Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports: What does research say about the impact of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) on student achievement?
Horner, R., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Eber, L., Nakasato, J., Todd, A., and J. Esperanza. (2009). "A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Effectiveness Trial Assessing School-Wide Positive Behavior Support in Elementary Schools, Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions." Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Vol. 11, No. 3, 133-144 ; Sprague, J., and R. Horner (2007) "School Wide Positive Behavioral Supports," in The Handbook of School Violence and School Safety: From Research to Practice. Shane R. Jimerson & Michael J. Furlong, eds.
Way to Go: School Success for Children with Mental Health Care Needs, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, 2006.
U.S. Department of Education. (2000). Applying positive behavioral support in schools: Twenty-second Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disability Act.
Spaulding, S.A., Horner, R.H., May, S.L., & Vincent C.G. (2008) Evaluation Brief: Implementation of School-wide PBS across the United States. OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports.
Ross, S., & Horner, R., (2009). "Bully prevention in positive behavior support."Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42 (4) 747-760