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What is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)?

PBIS is an approach to understanding why behavior occurs - that is, the behavior's function. Once behavior is better understood, it is possible to develop responses and interventions that are more effective and focus on prevention. The approach can be applied at a school-wide level, within a special setting or classroom, or with an individual student. When applied at a school wide level, the approach is often referred to as SWPBS and includes a continuum of supports and interventions ranging from universal (for all) to targeted group (for some) to individualized (for few).

How can our school get the School-wide Positive Behavioral Supports Program?

SWPBS is not a program, curriculum or practice. Rather, it is a decision-making framework to guide the selection, integration and use of evidenced-based practices to increase academic performance, decrease problem behavior, and establish positive school cultures. Generally speaking the most effective and evidence-based behavioral practices are those that are proactive, preventative and educative.

What is involved?

SWPBS relies on accurate and reliable data to understand the behavioral patterns occurring throughout the building. An analysis of this and other data allows the school team to identify the frequency of problem behavior, the types of problem behavior, where and when problem behavior is most likely, and whether many students or a few students are involved.

School teams also identify whether certain sub-groups (e.g., by gender, ethnicity, or students with IEP's) are overrepresented in discipline. Such analyses guide the team to develop and implement evidenced based practices to address:

  • Prevention, by making changes to the environment,
  • where and what to teach,
  • acknowledgement systems,
  • better responses to problem behavior and
  • systems to communicate findings to staff and students.

Data is constantly used by the team to measure the effectiveness of the plans and need for modifications. While the team develops plans using evidence-based practices, there is a focus on creating systems that support the staff in using such practices and implementing plans. Regardless of the level of implementation, the PBS process is a team based collaborative problem-solving process that involves input and feedback from teachers, staff, students and families.

How is SWPBS different than other approaches to behavior management or discipline?

Traditional school discipline is often characterized by an almost exclusive focus on the student as the problem and an overreliance on punishment to change behavior. SWPBS focuses instead on expected behavior and multi-component plans to change behavior. This profound focus on expected behavior is achieved by clarifying, teaching and acknowledging expected behavior, preventing problem behavior through changes to contributing contexts (e.g. improving academic skills) and responding to problem behavior more effectively.

What kinds of successes do schools experience with SWPBS implementation?

Shifting school discipline practices takes time. Within three to five years, many schools see a significant decrease in office discipline referrals and in suspensions and expulsions. Many schools have also experienced improved satisfaction of students and staff with overall school climate and safety.

What is culturally responsive PBIS?

Culturally responsive PBIS (CR-PBIS) is a framework for integrating issues of race, ethnicity, and culture into SWPBS implementation in order to ensure that the activities and outcomes of PBIS equally benefit all groups of students. Since disproportionality in disciplinary outcomes means that standard discipline systems are not working equally well for everyone, the goal of culturally responsive PBIS is to make strategic additions to the standard PBIS framework in order to address the needs of all groups in implementing schools or districts.

Is CR-PBIS meant to replace standard PBIS implementation?

No. Culturally responsive PBIS is an approach that ensures that, at strategic points in the implementation of PBIS, issues of race, ethnicity and culture are considered. In this way, disproportionality in discipline may be addressed as a school issue in much the same way that PBIS addresses other issues, such as patterns of problem behavior, location of referrals, and the need for targeted group interventions.

Our school is highly homogeneous in terms of racial/ethnic diversity. Is CR-PBIS relevant for us?

Yes, CR-PBS is still relevant in schools without high levels of racial or ethnic diversity. Although many of the most significant differences in discipline in our schools have to do with race and ethnicity, there are other groups, such as students with disabilities or low-income students for whom there may be disparities in discipline. While there may be a pressing need for CR-PBS where there is already an identifiable difference in disciplinary outcomes for at least one group, CR PBIS, like standard PBIS implementation, greatly enhances schools' capacity to respond to change. Many Indiana schools can expect the current realities of changing demographics to continue.

What types of changes are made in culturally responsive PBIS?

Table 1 presents the modifications that are involved in adding cultural responsiveness to standard PBS implementation. For example, in addition to considering schoolwide data, disciplinary data are also disaggregated by race and ethnicity so that the team can determine the extent of difference in ODRs or suspensions for different groups. A second important point of entry for CR-PBS is in the interpretation of data, encouraging school teams to ensure that all stakeholders are at the table and that a variety of reasons for disparities are considered. Third, the PBS team considers the extent to which interventions to be implemented are culturally responsive, that is, that they meet the needs and will likely benefit all groups.

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