A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’

1 Jul

In U.S. Education Dept. Civil Rights Office releases report on racial disparity in school retention, moi said:

One of the causalities of the decline and death of newspapers is the decline in investigative journalism. When the Seattle PI was still a print publication in 2001, they published a series of articles about discipline in the Seattle Public Schools. At that time, the list of behaviors included:

                                              1.   Disruptive conduct

                                              2.   Fighting

                                              3.   Disobedience

                                              4. .Assault

                                              5. Rule-breaking

                                              6. Alcohol/drugs

                                              7. Theft

                                              8. Trespass

                                              9.   Smoking

                                              10. Weapons

When this report was written, African American students were suspended at a higher rate than other students. The great thing about this piece of journalism was the reporters examined assumptions about what could be causing the disparity in expulsions. The assumptions about why African American students are disciplined and the statistical reality often do not provide clear-cut answers. The Seattle PI followed the report with a 2006 Update and the disparity issue remained. Perhaps, Dr. Bill Cosby is on to something with his crusade to ask tough questions about whether a “hip hop” culture is conducive to promoting success values in a population who must survive in the dominant culture. Debates about what cultural norms are healthy and should prevail are not useful to a child who is facing a suspension or expulsion and who must deal with that reality. It is imperative that children stay in school and receive a diploma or receive sufficient skills to allow them to prepare for a GED. If a child is facing a suspension or expulsion, the parent or guardian has to advocate for the child and the future placement and follow-up treatment for the child. The hard questions about placement in an education setting center on student behavior and whether the behavior of the individual child is so disruptive that the child must be removed from the school either for a period of time or permanently. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/u-s-education-dept-civil-rights-office-releases-report-on-racial-disparity-in-school-retention/ The U.S. Department of Education has developed the strategy of “School Wide Positive Behavior Support” in an attempt to lesson the number of suspensions. See, LA School Implements Positive Behavior System http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/la-school-implements-positive-behavior-system/

The Department of Education’s OSEP Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports describes “School Wide Positive Behavior Support” in School-wide Positive Behavior Support Implementers’ Blueprint and Self-Assessment1 2:

What is School-wide Positive Behavior Support?

School-wide Positive behavior support (SW-PBS) is comprised of a broad range of systemic and individualized strategies for achieving important social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behavior with all students. SW-PBS is not a specific “model” but a compilation of effective practices, interventions, and systems

change strategies that have a long history of empirical support and development and individually have been demonstrated to be empirically effective and efficient. In addition, SW-PBS has relevant applications to educating all students in schools, not just students with disabilities. SW-PBS is the integration of four elements

�� Operationally defined and valued outcomes,

�� Behavioral and biomedical science,

�� Research-validated practices, and

�� Systems change to both enhance the broad quality with which all students are living/learning and reduce problem behaviors.

First, SW-PBS emphasizes operationally defined and valued outcomes for all students. Specified academic and social behavior outcome indicators are linked to annual school improvement objectives, local and state initiative priorities, and individual academic goals and objectives. Data are used to describe, choose, and

evaluate goals/outcomes. Valued outcomes include increases in quality of life as defined by a school’s and/or individual student’s unique preferences and needs and by positive lifestyle changes that increase social belonging.

Second, SW-PBS is based on a clearly established behavioral and biomedical sciences that can be applied to address problem behavior in schools. The approach is based on conceptual principles from behavioral and biomedical research.

�� Behavior is learned and can be taught.

�� Behavior is lawful and predictable.

�� Behavior occurrences are affected by environmental factors that interact with biophysical characteristics of the individual.

�� Understanding the relation between physiology factors and environmental variables is a critical feature when supporting students with behavioral, social, emotional, and mental health issues.

�� Assessing and manipulating environmental factors can predictably affect occurrences of behavior.

�� Data collection and use for active decision-making are important for continuous intervention, program, and system improvement.

Third, SW-PBS emphasizes research-validated practices, interventions, strategies, curriculum, etc. to achieve goals and outcomes. Data are used to guide which practices should be selected and/or adapted to achieve goals/outcomes. The selection and use of evidence-based practices are given priority.

Fourth, SW-PBS gives priority to systems change considerations that support the effective and efficient selection and implementation of practices by school personnel (e.g., teachers, school psychologists, administrators). These organizational working considerations operationalize policies and guiding principles, operating routines, resource supports, and administrative leadership. Internal behavioral expertise and

capacity are developed, and data-based decision making is emphasized to improve the selection, adoption, outcomes, and durability of practices. Together these four elements provide schools with the opportunity to efficiently organize scarce resources and support the adoption of effective practices….http://www.osepideasthatwork.org/toolkit/pdf/SchoolwideBehaviorSupport.pdf

Robert Horner, George Sugai and Claudia Vincent write in Impact about “School Wide Positive Behavior Support.

In the article, School-wide Positive Behavior Support: Investing in Student Success, Horner, Sugai and Vincent write:

School-wide positive behavior support (SW-PBS) is an approach that begins with a school-wide prevention effort, and then adds intensive individualized support for those students with more extreme needs. SW-PBS has five core strategies:

  • Focus on preventing the development and occurrence of problem behavior, which is more effective, cost-efficient, and productive than responding after problem behavior patterns have become ingrained.
  • Teach appropriate social behavior and skills. Because children come to school from many different backgrounds, schools must define the core social expectations (e.g., be respectful, be responsible, be safe), and overtly teach the behaviors and skills associated with these expectations. When all students in the school are taught the same social skills, a social culture is established where students not only have personal knowledge about social expectations, they know that everyone in the school knows those same social expectations.
  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior. Students should receive regular recognition for appropriate behavior at rates that exceed rates of recognition for rule violations and problem behaviors. Negative consequences alone will not change problem behavior. Instead of ignoring problem behavior, a continuum of consequences (e.g., correction, warning, office discipline referral) for problem behavior should be maintained and used to prevent escalation and allow instruction to continue in class.
  • Gather and use data about student behavior to guide behavior support decisions. Data on what problem behaviors are being observed and how often, where and what time of the day they are occurring, and who is engaging in these problem behaviors enable schools to develop the most effective, efficient, and relevant school-wide behavior support plan.
  • Invest in the systems (e.g., teams, policies, funding, administrative support, data structures) that support adults in their implementation of effective practices.

Over the past six years, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has invested in technical assistance to states and districts choosing to implement SW-PBS. Over 2900 schools across 34 states are now implementing or in the process of adopting SW-PBS. Implementation is occurring primarily in elementary and middle schools, but the approach is now being adapted, applied, and studied in over 200 high schools….

  • Most schools in the U.S. are not implementing the evidence-based practices associated with SW-PBS. As part of the technical assistance process, schools have been assessed prior to adopting SW-PBS practices. On average, schools are using less than half the basic features, and none of the schools evaluated have demonstrated effective implementation prior to receiving technical assistance.
  • When technical support is provided, schools are successful in adopting the evidence-based practices associated with SW-PBS. Typically, school teams composed of five to seven individuals receive three, one- to two-day training events each year for two years. Schools throughout the country have documented the ability to adopt SW-PBS practices with high fidelity when they receive this level of support.
  • Once schools adopt SW-PBS practices to criterion they are likely to sustain those practices over long time periods. Longitudinal studies indicate that SW-PBS practices have sustained up to 10 years following implementation, even with turnover in administrators and core team members. In a recent evaluation of schools in Illinois, 86% of schools adopting SW-PBS in 2002-03 sustained or improved their level of implementation in 2003-04.
  • When SW-PBS is implemented to criterion, results indicate the following improvements in academic and social behavior outcomes: a) 20-60% reduction in office discipline referrals for students with and without Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), b) increases in the time students spend in instruction, c) decreases in the amount of time administrators and teachers spend addressing problem behaviors, and d) improvement in the perception of school safety and mental health through decreases in “risk factors” and increases in mental health “protective factors.” In addition, preliminary results indicate that SW-PBS implementation is associated with a decrease in the number of students identified for tertiary interventions because of intense support needs (Eber, 2005).
  • When investments are made in both behavior support and effective instruction, improvements in academic performance are experienced. During 2002-03, 52 elementary schools in Illinois using SW-PBS to criterion were compared with 69 schools that were just adopting SW-PBS and were not at criterion. On average, 62.19% of third graders in schools using SW-PBS met or exceeded the state reading standard. By comparison, an average of 46.6% of third graders in schools not using SW-PBS met the same standard.
  • Investing in development of local systems is an effective strategy for moving from small “demonstrations” to larger-scale applications. Implementation of SW-PBS involves not simply training for school teams, but training of a) local coaches or facilitators who work closely with teams to build and sustain evidence-based practices, and b) local trainers who are able to conduct team training on a distributed format within two years. By investing in building the capacity of local states/districts to train and evaluate SW-PBS, the cost of training the third and fourth generations of teams is reduced. External trainers and national technical assistance becomes less necessary. For example, in Illinois a state system of trainers and coaches now supports over 444 schools implementing SW-PBS. In Maryland, a state system of trainers and coaches supports over 321 schools implementing SW-PBS.
  • Implementation of SW-PBS is cost effective. Schools are able to adopt SW-PBS and establish local coaching and training infrastructure within a two-year initiative process. The cost to schools to sustain SW-PBS requires no additional dollars. This approach is about using existing resources better, not adding new costs. The cost of problem behavior in schools is a hidden drain on school resources. For example, when Kennedy Middle School implemented SW-PBS they documented improved student behavior, with an annual reduction of 850 office discipline referrals and 25 student suspensions from the pre-implementation level. This change translated into a time savings of 30 administrator days and 121 student school days.

In summary, schools will not achieve the academic standards we now require if they fail to build the positive social culture needed for sustained academic engagement. Traditional punishment and exclusionary strategies are not effective practices for improving student behavior…. http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/182/over2.html

In Inappropriate discipline: The first step on the road to education failure, moi said:

Family First Aid has a good discussion about the types of behavior problems that result in suspension or expulsion.  Dore Francis has a guide, which lists what parents should do if their child is suspended. The guide gives detailed instructions to these steps and other steps. Francis also lists what questions to ask after meeting with school officials.

Additionally, Family First Aid discusses the education questions a parent or guardian should ask when their child has been permanently excluded from a school setting because of behavior problems. The focus at this point should be how best to address the behavior issues that resulted in the disciplinary action. It is important to contact the district to find out what types of resources are available to assist the student in overcoming their challenges. Many children have behavior problems because they are not in the correct education placement. Often, moving the child to a different education setting is the beginning of dealing with the challenges they face. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/inappropriate-discipline-the-first-step-on-the-road-to-education-failure/


What is School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports? http://www.pbis.org/


The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/the-trauma-and-learning-policy-initiative/

Jonathan Cohn’s ‘The Two Year Window’ https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

7 Responses to “A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’”


  1. Report: Black students more likely to be suspended « drwilda - August 7, 2012

    […] A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’                                                          https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/a-strategy-to-reduce-school-suspensions-school-wide-positive… […]

  2. Johns Hopkins study finds ‘Positive Behavior Intervention’ improves student behavior « drwilda - October 22, 2012

    […] (PBIS) in A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’ https://drwilda.com/2012/07/01/a-strategy-to-reduce-school-suspensions-school-wide-positive-behavior-… Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has released an randomized control study about the […]

  3. Helping troubled children: The ‘Reconnecting Youth Program’ « drwilda - October 30, 2012

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  4. Alternative discipline: Helping disruptive children stay in school « drwilda - November 12, 2012

    […] A strategy to reduce school suspensions: ‘School Wide Positive Behavior Support’                                                     https://drwilda.com/2012/07/01/a-strategy-to-reduce-school-suspensions-school-wide-positive-behavior-… […]

  5. Wisconsin study: Disruptive students disrupt the education process | drwilda - April 10, 2013

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  6. Important Miranda case involving schools: N.C. v. Kentucky, No. 2011-SC-000271 (Ky. Apr. 25, 2013) | drwilda - September 4, 2013

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  7. drwilda - December 2, 2013

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