Summer Drift: How to Sustain the Momentum of PBIS Year to Year

By Beth Baker and Char Ryan, authors of The PBIS Team Handbook

Like most educators, we always enjoy our summer breaks—doing a little traveling and a lot of reading, taking some time to reflect on the past year, and preparing for the new year. It’s our time to rejuvenate.

Beth Baker and Char Ryan

But what does summer break mean for PBIS? Some educators think that after a year or two of implementing PBIS, the hard work is done and they can forget about what it takes to sustain PBIS in their buildings. A lack of attention (or intention) causes a drift in all of the hard work invested in planning and implementing PBIS. In our book The PBIS Team Handbook, chapter 8 is devoted to sustaining and continuously improving PBIS in your school. To avoid drifting over the summer, here are some big ideas to keep your PBIS framework uppermost in mind so that you’ll be ready for fall:

First, select a few key summer assignments for the PBIS leadership team. An important one is updating the matrix, making changes based on your experience and data from the past year. Prepare to unroll it in the fall.

Welcome PBIS team membersSecond, create a PBIS orientation and training for new staff and students. Consider having a PBIS leadership team meeting via Skype or GoToMeeting. Meet with student leaders to get their ideas for introducing your school’s routines to new students.

Third, focus on activities that promote continued staff and student buy-in, which can wax and wane yet is critical to maintaining ongoing implementation. Several factors contribute to buy-in, including frequent clear communication.

For example, send out a summer e-newsletter to all staff:

  • Include positive thoughts for the day and showcase photos from your school’s celebrations.
  • Have staff send in photos of themselves on summer vacation and use the photos for a slideshow at the beginning of the year. It’s a great way to introduce new students to staff.
  • Share articles related to PBIS and social/emotional learning—for ideas, check out,, or
  • Dig through your school’s data and identify specific areas of progress over the year. Acknowledge staff for their accomplishments.

Fourth, build community support: Visit with community members and discuss how they can support your school. Some examples:

  • Ask shops near your school to display your school expectations. Reinforce students for following the expectations outside of the school, too.
  • Train area police officers, park and rec employees, and library staff in PBIS. Together you can create learning matrices for these community areas that relate to your school-wide expectations.

Fifth, be sure to invest in yourself. If music feeds your soul, while cruising on a road trip keep your ears peeled for a song that could be next year’s school theme. Some suggestions:

  • “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  • “Firework” by Katy Perry
  • “Hall of Fame” by The Script, featuring (look for the edited version)
  • “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
  • “I Got This” by Jennifer Hudson

So enjoy your summer break and relax a bit. But be intentional about your break. Accomplish what you can, doing what is meaningful for your school. You’ll start two steps ahead of where you left off in the spring, ready to dive in and set the summer drift back on track.

How do you sustain the momentum of PBIS year to year?

Beth Baker, M.S.Ed, is an independent behavioral consultant and an intervention specialist at Minneapolis Public Schools, where she works to create positive behavioral environments for elementary students. She was formerly the lead PBIS coach for a school district in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, as well as a special PBIS Team Handbookeducator for many years, working with students who have emotional behavioral disability (EBD) needs. Beth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Char Ryan, Ph.D., is a PBIS coach, evaluation specialist, and Minnesota State SWIS (Schoolwide Information Systems) trainer. She is also a licensed psychologist and consultant with the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health. Formerly, Char was an assistant professor at Saint Cloud State University and state PBIS coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning. She is a frequent conference presenter and has been published in numerous journals, including Psychology in the Schools. Char lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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2 Responses to Summer Drift: How to Sustain the Momentum of PBIS Year to Year

  1. Hi, It’s standard practice to always spell out first use of an acronym that is not universally familiar. I am a journalist, not a professional educator, and have no idea what PBIS stands for. – ba

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