What is School-wide PBS?

Over the past 20 years, greater attention has been directed toward approaches based on validated practices that apply what we know about the science of human behavior to improve school climate and discipline. School-wide Positive Behavior Support (SW-PBS) is a district or school’s process for teaching social and behavioral skills so their focus can be on teaching and learning. Schools have the responsibility to provide an education to students in safe and predictable environments. Establishing a positive, proactive school-wide discipline plan is a necessary first step for enabling schools to achieve their goals and responsibilities.

School-wide Positive Behavior Support is an organizational framework for discipline. As a framework or approach, it is not a specific “model” or “program”, but a compilation of research-validated and effective practices, interventions, and systems change strategies. SW-PBS provides the framework for:

• Improving the social behavioral climate of schools
• Supporting or enhancing the impact of academic instruction on achievement
• Increasing proactive, positive, preventive management while decreasing reactive management
• Integrating academic and behavior supports
• Improving services for all student, including students at risk and students with identified disabilities


Why is it so important to focus on teaching positive social behaviors?

Frequently, the question is asked, “Why should I have to teach kids to be good? They already know what they are supposed to do. Why can I not just expect good behavior?” In the infamous words of a TV personality, “How is that working out for you?”

In the past, school-wide discipline has focused mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies including reprimands, loss of privileges, office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. Research has shown that the implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies, is ineffective. Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important step of a student’s educational experience. Teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is a much more positive approach than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding. The purpose of school-wide PBS is to establish a climate in which appropriate is the norm.


What is a systems approach in school-wide PBS?

A systems perspective focuses on the collective actions of individuals within the school and how they contribute to the way the school, as a whole, operates. We understand that change occurs at the individual teacher or staff level. When we change individuals’ behavior, these behaviors move the school toward the achievement of a common goal – in this case, the goal of socially skilled students and a positive learning climate. However, these individuals within the school need systems-level supports to promote the desired goal-related behaviors. The ultimate goal is for school improvement to become institutionalized to the extent that: 1) it is established in the school’s direction, 2) leadership provides ongoing support for the practices, 3) staff possesses the essential knowledge, attitudes, and skills, and 4) policies and procedures support the work.