Home » Instructional Services » Student Services » Special Programs » Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports

Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports

PBIS, Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports, is a systems approach to behavior. It was developed in the early 1990’s at the University of Oregon and some 4J schools were in the first cohort to implement.

A team in each EBS school creates systems that enable students to know what is expected of them, to have confidence they will be acknowledged when expectations are met, and to be certain they will be corrected when they don’t. Given the extraordinary demands on educators, why do schools choose to go to the extra effort to create and implement these systems? Among the reasons:

  • No behavior systems are in place. Staff members are on their own – hoping for the best.
  • Discipline policies and procedures are unclear or unwritten.
  • Systems exist but are dated, not followed or unarticulated.
  • Systems exist but are ignored by some.
  • Discipline is dependent on an administrator who cannot be out of the building without risk of a breakdown in control or a backlog of issue when the administrator returns.
  • Behavior issues dominate the administrator’s day.
  • Staff and/or students are unclear about the rules and expectations (cannot state them if asked), rules are not known, not taught, overlapping, do not apply, too plentiful, unfocused, or are stated negatively.
  • Staff members are not clear about their roles in responding to student behavior.
  • Unclear lines of authority are used as loopholes and license for students to show disrespect to staff seen as lacking authority.
  • It is hard to explain discipline systems to new staff or guest teachers.
  • There are high rates of problem behaviors.
  • Consequences are not effective in changing unacceptable behaviors.
  • Too much time is spent on crisis management.
  • The school climate is not as positive as it should be.
  • A few students are leading others in a negative direction.
  • Some students are out of control.
  • Although things are going well now, there is a desire for systems to be in place for the needs of future students with problem behaviors.
  • Administration and/or staff turnover is on the horizon and having behavior systems in place would smooth the transitions.
  • Teachers find themselves using too much instructional time for behavior management.
  • Students are not sufficiently recognized for following expectations. Most attention is on negative behavior.
  • A teacher asking for help with a student or students is seen as lacking classroom mangagement skills.
  • There are students in the school who are not making optimum progress because of behavior problems – their own or those of peers.
  • There are students with behavior problems which are not being effectively addressed.
  • Staff members do not feel they have much control over the climate of the school.
  • Students who are well behaved in class are getting in trouble when they leave the classroom.
  • Expectations at home are different from expectations at school and parents cannot be relied upon to help solve behavior problems.

PBIS is based on the idea that when students are taught clearly defined behavioral expectations and provided with predictable responses (positive and corrective) to their behavior, 85-95% of the students will meet those expectations (see figure below) and those needing more help will be in small enough numbers that they can be handled.


A 100% satisfaction guarantee is not promised (or even possible) but PBIS does provide a structure for addressing climate and behavior problem issues that is often lacking in schools. PBIS is not a quick fix. It takes three to five years to develop and implement the systems and they must be tended and adjusted in perpetuity. But most schools that have implemented or are implementing PBIS are happy with the results. When asked how PBIS has affected their school, here is how some students responded:

  • Now I know what I’m supposed to do.
  • I can go to any adult to get help if I need it.
  • Recess is much safer and more fun.

And some of the things staff members said:

  • PBIS makes discipline everybody’s responsibility – not just the principal’s.
  • The school climate is better. The school is safer.
  • Kids know what is expected of them.
  • Parents know what is expected of kids.
  • Now I know how to respond to misbehavior of students not in my class.
  • Training, worktime and incentive money are helpful. (From a 4J team member.)
  • The results justify the time commitment. Even though we added teaching behavior, we actually have more time to teach than before PBIS.

Encouraging data (data summaries) that show reduced rates of problem behavior and improved achievement, as well as staff satisfaction with positive changes in school climate, are reasons schools decide to do PBIS and stick with it through the years.