Getting Off to a Good Start with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

By Beth Baker, M.S.Ed., and Charlotte Ryan, Ph.D., authors of The PBIS Team Handbook

Beth Baker, FSP Author

As we near the end of September, the excitement of the beginning of the school year has probably faded somewhat at your school. But it’s still early in the year, and there are several things teachers, PBIS teams, and administrators can do to promote a successful start to their PBIS programs.

  1. Plan to reteach the schoolwide expectations to students, staff, and others. Review the process for teaching and acknowledging positive student behavior. Schools that do this right away often report their best ever start to a new year.
  2. Plan to teach and orient of all new students and adults at the school in PBIS principles. Turnover of students and staff is a given in all schools.
  3. Char Ryan, FSP AUthorMake sure the expectations and matrix are current and posted in all settings.
  4. Review the school social and behavioral goals with staff and assure buy-in. Use your end-of-year data to recognize progress and set goals for the year.
  5. Schedule time to discuss PBIS at faculty meetings over the course of the entire year.

Behind the scenes, the PBIS Leadership Team has met well before school begins and will have reviewed office discipline referral (ODR) data from the previous year and set action plans for the new year. Some questions they might ask:

  • How much of a reduction in ODRs have we had?
  • Which behavioral categories have the highest and lowest numbers of referrals?
  • Was our schoolwide reinforcement system embraced by the students and staff? In what way?
  • Do our behavioral expectations continue to be relevant to our school community?
  • How will we kick off our new school year?

When Beth was a PBIS coach, the building principal liked to start off the school year with grade-by-grade assemblies. There was music, balloons, and a video of the staff and students from the previous year. There was excitement as she welcomed everyone to a fresh start. This was also the time when she restated and re-modeled the school expectations.

When Char was a trainer and evaluator, she worked with researcher Kent McIntosh and others to conduct a piece of research that compellingly illustrates the benefits of early intervention and PBIS. Known as the “October Catch,” this work demonstrated a couple of important findings. First, students who had two or more referrals by October were highly likely to have more than six by year’s end. October Catch for PBISThe other dramatic finding was that screening with Office Discipline Referral data and intervening when a student had two referrals reduced this trajectory so that students did not follow the trend of more referrals, and consequently did not lose instructional time. We have the data and we have the power to influence behavior of all students in a positive and predictable way. This is the time of year when the benefits for prevention and early intervention abound.

Have a terrific start to the year and recognize the power of being positive.

Beth Baker, M.S.Ed, is an independent behavioral consultant and intervention specialist at Minneapolis Public Schools, where she works to create positive behavioral environments for elementary students. PBIS Team HandbookShe was formerly the lead PBIS coach for a school district in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, as well as a special educator working for many years 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.

Char and Beth are the authors of The PBIS Team Handbook.

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