This entry will focus on a model of intervention (the three-tier model often known as “Response to Intervention,” or RTI) that has become infused into school districts around the United States and is likely going to continue to impact the practice of school social workers and community-based social workers who provide services in schools. Since the 1990s, the literature around improving the academic achievement and behavioral functioning of school-age children has gradually focused more on RTI as a way to implement effective early intervention strategies for youth to prevent school failure. The principles of RTI have also come to be associated with a related but distinct model of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS, sometimes also called Positive Behavior Supports/PBIS or School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports/SWPBIS) and this approach has also been promoted as an effective framework to improve an entire student body’s academic and social, emotional, or behavioral functioning. This entry will discuss the history of RTI (and PBIS), the policy context for the approaches’ growing adoption in American K–12 schools, and the (still small but growing) evidence base for RTI and PBIS as approaches for schools to enhance student academic and behavioral outcomes. Additionally, the specific role of school social workers (and community-based social workers working in schools) will be highlighted, specifically how the growing influence of RTI and PBIS offers new opportunities for social workers to serve schools, students, and families.
Michael S. Kelly
Diane Myers, Brandi Simonsen, and George Sugai
Actively engaging learners in the classroom has been associated with increases in learners’ academic and behavioral performance. Multiple empirically supported strategies exist for actively engaging learners, including increasing opportunities for learners to respond and planning highly engaging lessons. In support of these engagement strategies, educators also systematically implement empirically supported classroom management strategies to increase the likelihood of appropriate behaviors and decrease the likelihood of inappropriate behaviors. These classroom management strategies include: (a) maximizing structure, which includes both the physical (e.g., desk arrangement) and embedded (e.g., classroom routines) aspects of structure; (b) establishing, operationally defining, teaching, prompting, and monitoring students’ expected classroom behaviors; (c) developing a continuum of acknowledgment strategies to reinforce (i.e., increase the future likelihood of) those expected behaviors; and (d) establishing a continuum of responses for behaviors that do not meet expectations. In addition, educators collect relevant data to evaluate if learners are engaged and meeting academic and behavioral expectations. Finally, to create a classroom environment conducive to engaging all learners, academic and behavioral instruction and support must be: (a) contextually and culturally relevant for learners, and (b) differentiated to meet the diverse learning and behavioral needs within the classroom. If educators explicitly and routinely implement empirically supported academic and behavioral instruction and support for all learners, the majority of learners will engage in instruction and demonstrate behaviors that meet expectations, reducing the number of learners who require additional levels of support. Meanwhile, effective educators review academic and behavioral data to determine if learners require more intensive support at a group or individual learner level.
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.