For whom is PBIS successful? Under what conditions has PBIS had the best impact?

Question: For whom is PBIS successful?  Under what conditions has PBIS had the best impact?

Answer:   My colleagues and I at Johns Hopkins have been doing research on PBIS, or positive behavioral interventions and supports, to try to understand for whom the program is most successful and under what conditions it has the greatest impact. We have conducted two large-scale, randomized control trials, one looking at the tier one supports and the second trial looking at the combination of tier one and tier two supports. Of interest to us were things such as the teachers’ ratings of the students’ behavior problem and the overall organization and climate of the schools. We found that when looking at the impact of the tier one supports through large-sale, randomized control trial in elementary schools, that teachers rated the students as having better focus on academics, as being more ready to learn, having fewer behavior problems and concentration problems in the classroom, and having more pro-social behavior as well as better emotion regulation. We also found that the students had fewer rates of suspensions as well as office referrals. Also of great interest to us, we found that the school staff reported that the school was functioning better. There was better communication and clearer leadership from the administrator. I am very excited about the impacts of those tier one programs that were discerned through our large-scale trial.

We recently concluded a second trial of positive behavior support. In this case we were looking at the impact of the tier two supports when they were combined with the tier one school-wide piece. And by the tier two supports we were looking at things like coaching to the student support team regarding the function-based assessment process, providing on-site teaching support to teachers that had referred students for supports to the student team. We were also looking at the impact of particular interventions to support students, things such as the check-in, checkout program or the behavior education program. We also provided some training to teachers in cultural proficiency as we know that issues around disproportionality are also of great concern. Within this project we examined the impact in 45 elementary schools, half of which got randomized to get the training and the supports in this particular model and half served as comparisons, and we found significant impacts on teachers’ efficacy to handle behavior problems within the classroom. We also saw significant reductions in the use of special education services and significant improvements in teacher ratings’ of academic performance of the students. We also saw some promising impacts as it related to family engagement, student engagement, as well as teachers’ focus on academics. We’re very excited about the impacts of these programs and anticipate that the program activities implemented in the elementary school level would also likely benefit schools at the middle and high school level. We are currently engaged in a high school trial to implement programs across all three tiers, implementing programs such as the Olweus bullying prevention model and the life skills prevention model to address issues around bullying and substance use, as well as more intensive types of mental health needs through the cognitive behavior intervention for trauma in schools (CBITS) model. All of those are evidence-based models out of the field of prevention science, which we have brought together and integrated within the three tier PBIS framework.

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention