Positive Behavior Intervention Supports: A School-Wide Approach to Improving Behavior and School Climate

Last Updated: January 02, 2009

This article appeared in the January 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) is a method for improving the disciplinary climate of a school. It is not a new discipline technique or program. Rather it emphasizes teaching uniform behavioral expectations for all students, rewarding positive behaviors, and providing targeted interventions for students with serious behavior problems.

Research indicates that school-wide implementation of PBIS reduces disciplinary referrals 50-60% within two years. The method works well for all students and is especially beneficial for students with disabilities. PBIS requires that all school staff agree to support the method’s basic principles, which include:

  • A small number of brief positively stated expectations for all students that staff are willing and able to enforce.
  • Procedures for teaching these expectations to all students and modeling and rewarding positive behavior (universal interventions). PBIS encourages school-wide involvement in maintaining a positive environment, with peer support and all staff helping correct behavioral mistakes. Creating an environment where good behavior is easily accomplished is a major element of PBIS.
  • A continuum of procedures for discouraging displays of rule-violating behavior. When universal interventions do not apply or are not effective, targeted interventions such as small group instruction begin. For the most serious behavioral problems, PBIS requires a staff-wide commitment to wraparound services, including involvement of community resources, to help address the needs of the student.
  • Procedures for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the discipline system on a regular and frequent basis. This includes such things as determining the circumstances in which rule-violating behavior is most likely to occur, identifying groups of students who may be over-represented in discipline incidents and creating a response, and documenting positive trends like a reduction in suspensions or increase in academic performance.

PBIS is encouraged by the U.S. Department of Education and has been widely embraced by states, many of which have a staff person responsible for helping schools implement PBIS. PBIS creates a hospitable environment for all students and establishes a clear set of interventions for problem behavior, thereby providing a viable and productive alternative to zero tolerance policies. In so doing it helps students remain and succeed in school and supports students coming out of the juvenile justice system to develop appropriate and productive behavior and academic success.

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Read more from the January 2009 Rural Policy Matters.