Guest post by Greg Bozarth
In 2012, Lava Ridge School District had a simple goal: for all students—even those who struggle with behavioral issues—to learn at high levels. That’s why we formed our PBIS “Touch Gold” program in 2013, and little did we know how important this framework would become for student interventions.
PBIS, or Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support system, seeks to establish a more proactive and positive school culture by using a systematic framework for student interventions. According to Carol Anderson, a Utah State Office of Education Specialist, an effective Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support system (PBIS) should:
- Establish schoolwide behavioral expectations for all areas of a school
- Explicitly teach the expectations to everyone in the school
- Reinforce the expectations for all students and staff
- Correct behavioral errors in all areas of a school
Our PBIS Journey
To implement a schoolwide PBIS system, Lava Ridge gathered together a diverse group of teachers and administrators, including specialists in various content areas, special education, counseling, administration, and more. We researched schools with successful PBIS systems to learn the key components and establish our own behavioral expectations, reinforcement system, and a behavior matrix that classifies minor and major offenses and the consequences.
Next, we instituted a data tracking system to record and evaluate the success of our interventions. This tracking system, which we call our “Will/Skill website,” is modeled after PBIS World and allows us to handle behavioral interventions more systematically and hold each other accountable so that no students slip through the cracks.
This tool contains a menu of misbehaviors frequently observed in school such as tardiness, defiance, lack of motivation, impulsiveness, etc. Teachers utilize the Will/Skill website to identify struggling students; research and identify root behavioral causes; select intervention strategies; and record and track how those interventions are working.
Our Interdisciplinary Teams (I-Teams) meet every other week to discuss the behavioral concerns of the students they share. When they identify a student who repeatedly struggles with a behavior issue and for whom Tier 1 interventions are not enough, the team selects an intervention from the Will/Skill website and commits to using this intervention with the student in a unified, consistent manner for two weeks until the next I-Team meeting.
We hold ourselves accountable by asking the following questions: Is it working? Is the intervention truly being utilized evenly among all team members? Is it having the desired effect? If it is not, then what is our next intervention effort going to be?
If our I-Teams have tried and documented three different interventions and the student has not responded, the I-Team will refer that student and all of the documented interventions and results to our PBIS-Tier 3 team. Using our combined expertise, our PBIS team finds interventions that will address the root causes of a student’s behavioral concern.
Our Tier 3 team, for example, reviewed an I-Team’s interventions for a student and decided to utilize an individualized token economy intervention called Check-In/Check-Out. Every morning, a mentor met with the student to build a rapport and help him identify a behavioral and academic goal for each day. Their daily meetings allowed the student to review how he performed and helped him learn how to monitor and track his own progress. As a result, the student passed all of his classes and was no longer referred to the office for misbehaviors for the remainder of the school year.
Our PBIS Success
Lava Ridge’s PBIS “Touch Gold” program has succeeded beyond our expectations. We have decreased office referrals by 30 percent and reduced the number of unexcused absences by 20 percent in the second half of our school year. When we focus on reinforcing good student behaviors, many of the negative student behaviors disappear. With the belief that every student at Lava Ridge Intermediate will succeed at high levels both behaviorally and academically, we have been able to transform our school culture and touch gold.
Why should schools develop schoolwide reinforcement systems? What does your school do to guarantee that all students with behavioral struggles learn at high levels?
Greg Bozarth is the assistant principal of Lava Ridge Intermediate School in Santa Clara, UT, which serves 867 students in grades 6–7. He is the 2016 Utah Assistant Principal of the Year.