Personal Accounts: PBIS from a Principal’s Perspective

PBIS from a Principals Point of View

When I was a principal at a local elementary school, I found out about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) during my training as a behavior coach with Albert Felts, of the Behavior Team at Region 13 ESC. I was overwhelmed with discipline referrals; everything from students not doing their work, to making terroristic threats. Our morning and dismissal routines (or lack thereof) were chaotic. We needed organization, to set positive behavioral expectations in place, and a system to support not only student behaviors but staff behaviors as well.

The Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Initiative is founded on a three-tiered model and addresses school-wide systems, classroom management, and individual student supports. PBIS is a decision making framework for a campus based team that guides selection, integration, and implementation of the best research based practices and interventions for improving outcomes for ALL students. It is a three year process with on-site coaching from the Region 13 ESC Behavior Team.

In our first year, a representative from the Behavior Team came to our campus and initiated a comprehensive assessment of school-wide behavior based on discipline referrals, observations, teacher surveys, and parent surveys. Professional development took place in the summer with a team of teachers and staff from the campus. Based on the data collected, action planning took place. Focusing on Tier 1, procedures developed for the common areas–bathroom, hallway, cafeteria, and morning and afternoon dismissal. A discipline matrix was created outlining behaviors that warranted teacher action or principal action. The results? Everyone (teachers, students, and parents) had the same vocabulary, expectations, and procedures. Chaos turned into smooth sailing and discipline referrals fell.

In the second year of the process, we focused on Tier 2 interventions: the classroom. Every classroom was expected to implement CHAMPS. Champs is a framework for teachers to provide a proactive and positive approach in classroom management. It guides the teacher in how to make effective decisions about managing behavior. Again, teachers, students, and parents knew what the classroom expectations were. Combining this with our earlier work creating a behavior matrix, discipline referrals continued to fall!

In our third year of support, we focused on those 5-10% of the students who weren’t successful with Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions. For those Tier 3 students, we used Meaningful Work, behavioral contracts, RtI (Response to Intervention team), and assessments such as FBAs. Meaningful Work focuses on changing student behavior in the school environment through school jobs with an adult mentor. Some jobs I had for students were safety checkers, mail sorter, and cleaning the office area. An FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment) is used with children who are misbehaving in school; it attempts to determine the reason for the behavior instead of just labeling a child as a ‘bad kid.’ The assessment also looks at how the world (school, parents, teachers, friends, etc.) around the child is reinforcing their behaviors. Then a plan is implemented to increase the positive behavior and decrease the negative behavior.

What improved on our campus? Academic instructional time, positive perceptions in school climate, safety, and consistency among school staff in reinforcing and redirecting student behavior.

Janice Burch has 28 years of experience in education. She is currently in her 12th year as an Education Specialist at Region 13. Janice provides trainings and coaching on a variety of topics including Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), classroom management, CHAMPs, CPI, and Dealing with Difficult Students.

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