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Steve Goodman and Heather Peshak George

The need for a strong school-wide behavior program that promotes a positive school climate that benefits all students through an established continuum of supports is essential to enhance both the learning experience of students and the work environment of educators. School-wide positive behavior interventions and supports, referred to as PBIS, is based on the foundations of behavioral science, practical, usable interventions, and quality of life outcomes through a preventative systems approach. PBIS is a framework for making schools and learning environments more effective by establishing the social culture and intensive behavior supports needed to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for all students. A culture of social competence within a school includes a (a) common vision for what the school community strives to be, (b) common expectations for how individuals should behave, (c) common language to describe the vision, expectations, and experiences, and (d) common experiences to promote prosocial behavior, and it applies this logic in all settings and across all individuals that interact with those settings. PBIS is more than just reducing problem behavior; it establishes systems that create environments and improve the quality of life for students and their families as well as for the educators. The evidence base supporting PBIS is expansive and ever-growing. The fundamental themes of PBIS include the use of the core features of evidence-based practices organized within a multi-tiered framework with flexibility in implementation, and progress monitoring through data use. PBIS invests in practices, data, and systems in order to positively impact student outcomes.


Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.