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Brief Description of PBS Related to Schools and Districts

The links below are intended to help you navigate among the pages related to Schools and Districts. The references or source material associated with the references on this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Association for Positive Behavior Support (APBS) nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by APBS.


In the past, school-wide discipline has focused mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies including reprimands, loss of privileges, office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. Research has shown that the implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies, is ineffective and can lead to increases in problem behaviors such as vandalism. School-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS) is an alternative approach which emphasizes:

  • Spending time building working with the whole school as a foundation for both social and academic success,
  • Emphasizing the prevention of problem behavior,
  • Using a three-tiered continuum of behavior support practices to facilitate prevention of problem behavior, and
  • Actively using data for decision-making.

In schools, primary prevention involves all students and adults within the school and is implemented across school settings. The goal is to create a positive social culture in which pro-social behaviors are explicitly taught and reinforced, and all adults respond to the occurrence of problem behavior in a consistent manner. Secondary prevention is intended to support students who have learning and/or life histories that put them at risk of engaging in more serious problem behavior. Strategies for secondary prevention address a child's needs before more intensive individualized supports are needed. A smaller number of students need more individualized plans than primary and secondary prevention practices provide. Individualized and comprehensive plans address the unique needs of children who engage in serious problem behaviors.

The purpose of a three tiered approach is to support all students, and when necessary tailoring interventions to provide more intensive supports. The three tiered approach is not intended to label students by placing them in categories or a hierarchy. There are no "green kids", "yellow kids" or "red kids". This triangle model is not intended to label students by placing them in categories or a hierarchy. Rather, the purpose of this three tiered approach is to support all students, and to ensure the children who need it receive more intensive supports to ensure they are successful in school.

Planning teams are an essential part of the success of SWPBS efforts and consist of representatives from all areas of the school (e.g., general education, special education, administration, special services). The role of the planning team is to bring information to the entire faculty so that together, they entire group can gather data and create an action plan for implementing SWPBS. The action plan is designed based upon a self assessment of the school's strengths and needs. Data gathered during a self assessment often includes faculty, student, and community feedback, office referral data, suspension and expulsion data, direct observation data of students in a given setting or settings, along with measures of SWPBS implementation fidelity in the school, academic outcomes, and school safety and climate measures. These data help schools make effective decisions and build on existing school strengths. Implementing SWPBS involves a multi-year commitment and becomes a natural part of the school processes.

Click here for more information about school-wide positive behavior support.

District-wide Planning in School-wide Positive Behavior Support
In order to ensure sustainable and durable SWPBS systemic support is needed that extends beyond an individual school. It is important to organize resources so that multiple schools (e.g., cluster, complex, district, county, state) establish a common vision, language, and experience. SWPBS allows districts and states to improve the efficiency of resource use, implementation efforts, and organizational management. An expanded infrastructure also enhances the district and state level support (e.g., policy, resources, competence) and provides a supportive context for implementation at the local level. The figure below shows the tasks and activities involved in a leadership team process at both the district and state level.

A leadership team at the district level is needed to lead an assessment and action planning process resulting in SWPBS implementation. The leadership team works collaboratively to establish training capacity so that the district can provide sustainable staff development efforts over time. The training system must be adapted as more schools within the district become interested in SWPBS. The leadership team makes sure that coaches are available to provide support and that the personnel and resources necessary for facilitating, assisting, maintaining, and adapting local school training implementation efforts are accomplished. The role of coaches is to facilitate school team meetings, ensure data are summarized, support team activities, and meet monthly with a district coordinator. The role of the district coordinator is to facilitate leadership team meetings, support coaches, ensure data are summarized and coordinate training efforts within the district. Finally resources are committed by the district team to establish measurable outcomes, methods for evaluating progress toward these measurable outcomes, and modified or adapted action plans based on these evaluations. To be successful, school-wide positive behavior support implementation must have (a) adequate and sustained funding support; (b) regular, wide, and meaningful visibility; and (c) relevant and effective political support.

Although the membership of district leadership teams vary, examples of district-wide team members include:

  • District administration
  • School administration
  • District PBS trainers
  • Instruction and Curriculum
  • Safe and Drug Free Schools
  • Special Education
  • School Psychology and Counseling
  • Title or other related initiatives
  • Student Health
  • Parents and family members
  • Students
  • School-wide Discipline
  • Dropout Prevention
  • Character Education
  • Alternative Program personnel
  • Data or Information Management
  • Multiculturalism and Affirmative Action
  • Mental Health representation
  • Children and Family Services representation
  • Business and Community Organization leaders
  • University or college professionals

The following reference provides a comprehensive description of district-wide planning:

School-wide Positive Behavior Support Blueprint

  • Sugai, G., Horner, R.H., Algozzine, R., Barrett, S., Lewis, T., Anderson, C., Bradley, R., Choi, J. H., Dunlap, G., Eber, L., George, H., Kincaid, D., McCart, A., Nelson, M., Newcomer, L., Putnam, R., Riffel, L., Rovins, M., Sailor, W., Simonsen, B. (2010). School-wide positive behavior support: Implementers' blueprint and self-assessment. Eugene, OR: University of Oregon.
    http://pbis.org/pbis_resource_detail_page.aspx?Type=3&PBIS_ResourceID=216

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