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Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Strategy Guide - Archived

Introduction of Strategy

Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is a schoolwide systems approach aimed at establishing positive student culture and individualized behavior supports necessary to create a safe and effective learning environment for all students (Sugai & Horner, 2009). PBIS is an evidence-based framework with multiple randomized control trials and real-world implementation effectiveness studies supporting the program's impact on reducing problem behaviors, reducing in- and out-of-school suspension rates, enhancing school climate, and even improving academic performances (Bradshaw, Mitchell, & Leaf, 2010; Horner et al., 2009; see also It is very important to note that the effectiveness of PBIS is based on implementing the eight core components described below. While each component is researched informed, these components are most effective when implemented together. To this end, PBIS developers have created multiple validated implementation fidelity measures such as the Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI; Algozzine et al., 2014; McIntosh et al., 2017) to assist schools in effectively implementing all eight core components. Those eight components include:

  1. Common philosophy and purpose

  2. Leadership

  3. Clarifying expected behavior

  4. Teaching expected behavior

  5. Encouraging expected behavior

  6. Discouraging unwanted behavior

  7. Ongoing monitoring

  8. Effective classroom practices

Evidence Base

ESSA defines levels of research based on the quality of the study (Levels 1-4). CDE requires that schools and districts identify the research base for strategies that they select for their Unified Improvement Plans, and for applications for school improvement funds in the EASI application.

  • The research on PBIS that is cited here meets the definition of Level 1 research. The research cited focused on the impact on student behavior and achievement when all PBIS components were implemented.
  • There is gold standard evidence (“Strong” under ESSA) that suggests that when the key components of PBIS are implemented, it can lead to improved feelings of school safety, reduction in behavioral referrals and improved student academic performance in elementary schools.

Blaze, J., Olmi, J., Mercer, S., Dufrene, B., & Tingstom, D. (2014). Loud versus quiet praise: A direct behavioral comparison in secondary classrooms. Journal of School Psychology, 52, 349–360.

Cook, C., Grady, E., Long, A., Renshaw, T., Codding, R., Fiat, A., & Larson, M. (2017). Evaluating the Impact of Increasing General Education Teachers' Ratio of Positive-to-Negative Interactions on Students' Classroom Behavior. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 19(2), 67–77.

Flannery, K.B. & McGrath Kato, M. (2016): Implementation of SWPBIS in high school: Why is it different?, Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, DOI: 10.1080/1045988X.2016.1196644

Ledford, G., Gerhart, B., & Fang, M. (2013). Negative Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation: More Smoke Than Fire. WorldatWork.

Simonsen, B., Sugai, G., & Negron, M. (2008). Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports Primary Systems and Practices. Teaching Exceptional Children, 40(6), 32–40.

Sugai G & Simonsen, B. (2012). POSITIVE BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTIONS AND SUPPORTS: HISTORY, DEFINING FEATURES, AND MISCONCEPTIONS. Center for PBIS & Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.


Possible Root Causes include inadequate, inconsistent or ineffective...

  • Attendance and engagement systems
  • Consistent structures
  • Systems for behavior and engagement
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Social emotional needs
  • Student experiences

Is this strategy a good fit for your district/school?

  • Does this major improvement strategy focus on a priority performance challenge and associated root cause(s)?
  • Are the expected outcomes of this major improvement strategy highly valued?
  • Do key leaders support this major improvement strategy? Do key leaders have the capacity to lead the strategy ongoing?
  • What are the skills and competencies needed to implement this major improvement strategy with fidelity? What support/professional development do staff members need to implement this strategy effectively?
  • Are the time, effort and resources needed for implementation feasible for the staff involved?

Considerations for Strategy Implementation

  • Will systems be put into place to ensure that there are ongoing support for staff to enable the accurate and durable implementation of practices, efficient use of data, and achievement of outcomes?
  • Will data be available so that information can be used to select, monitor, and evaluate outcomes, practices, and systems?
  • Will processes be put into place to ensure interventions and strategies are evidence-based and can be used to achieve indicated outcomes?
  • Will academic and behavioral targets or indicators be specified, endorsed, emphasized and monitored because of their social and educational significance?

Implementation Guide

This implementation guide focuses on the first tier of intervention and supports within PBIS. For more detailed information, and for information on Tier 2 and 3, please visit the Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) from, a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs technical assistance center.

Action Steps


Create Tier 1 Team

Create a Tier 1 team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities that includes a systems coordinator, school administrator, family member, student representation, applied behavior expert, individual with academic and behavior patterns, and an individual with school operations knowledge.

Implement Operating Procedures

Create a meeting schedule that includes team meetings that occur at least monthly. These meetings should include a regular meeting format/agenda, norms, meeting minutes, and an action plan

Action Steps


Decide on School-wide Behavioral Expectations

Tier 1 team creates 5 or fewer positively-stated behavioral expectations and explicit behavioral examples by setting/location for students and staff.

Define Problem Behavior

Create clear definitions for behaviors that interfere with academic and social success and a clear policy/procedure for addressing office-managed versus staff-managed problems

Consider school policy and protocols

School policies and procedures describe and emphasize proactive, instructive, and/or restorative approaches to student behavior that are implemented consistently.

Decide on Professional Development Plan

Create and implement a process used for training, coaching, and supporting all faculty/staff in the implementation of 4 core Tier 1 PBIS practices: (a) teaching school-wide expectations, (b) acknowledging expected behavior, (c) correcting errors, and (d) requesting assistance.

  • For more information on evidence based professional development see Professional Learning Strategy Guide

Determine Ways to Deliver Feedback & Acknowledgement

Create and put into place a written set of procedures for specific behavioral feedback that is (a) linked to the school-wide expectations, (b) used across all settings, and (c) focused on reinforcing expected behaviors

Encourage Community Involvement

Create opportunities for two-way communication, that includes students, families and community members so that they might provide input on universal foundations (e.g. expectations, consequences, acknowledgments), and know how to access supports.

Action Steps


Determine Process to Use Discipline Data

Team has instantaneous access to graphed reports summarizing discipline data organized by frequency of problem behavior events by behavior, location, time of day, and by individual students. Team then uses data on a monthly basis for decision-making (e.g., Benchmarks of Quality, Sellf-Assessment Survey, Tiered Fidelity Inventory).

Plan for Annual Evaluation

Team reviews PBIS practices- both fidelity and effectiveness- for ongoing and continuous improvement and provides an annual year-by-year comparisons that are shared with stakeholders