Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, is a system with long-standing results. PBIS aims to teach core skills as they pertain to behavioral expectations, similar to how schools teach core curriculum expectations. Whaley School, a separate day school for students with acute behavior needs, has been using the PBIS model for five years in the Anchorage School District. We believe that much of our PBIS success is due to the work we have done in four key groups: students, staff, families, and community.
PBIS creates a positive environment within the school where students follow required expectations and receive points, school monetary systems, or another external reward. For our school, we are clear about what we expect of our students. We expect our students to:
- be Prepared
- be Accountable
- be Caring to the entire school community
- Keep a positive attitude
When students exhibit these behaviors, they receive P.A.C.K. cash. On Friday, students visit the school store stocked with items supported strictly by donation—such as clothing, games, toys, food, and more—and can “purchase” these items with their P.A.C.K. cash.
Prior to their time at Whaley, students had seldom been recognized for positive behaviors and instead had been punished for negative behaviors. While it seems simple, recognizing positive behaviors with P.A.C.K. cash has been motivating for students. It helps them be more aware of their classroom and school behavior and has minimized negative behaviors.
PBIS is not only for students in the building, it’s also for staff. We recognize staff with a “Staff of the Month” award. Students and staff nominate staff members who have made a difference that month through a survey, and the school votes on the nominations. Those who are recognized win various prizes. This program has not only helped to boost staff morale, but it has also been a great way to show staff members what teaching behaviors benefit students the most.
We couldn’t create a PBIS system without parent support and understanding. Parent University has been a great way to involve parents and provide them with the knowledge and skills to help support their child’s education. Parent University at Whaley involves four components:
- Connect parents to the school community and show them how they can get involved.
- Educate parents about our curriculum and the reasoning behind the different course options and educational tracks.
- Explore ways that students can get involved in the school and the community to add to their academic education.
- Teach parents skills and strategies to use at home to support their child.
We’ve found that Parent University has been instrumental in our work with our students. It has increased parental involvement, reduced parental frustrations with the school, and improved student learning because of the extra support they are receiving at home. Truly, our school and families work as a unit for the betterment of all of our students.
Without the support of our community members, PBIS would fail. Getting the word out to the community regarding what we do, how we do it, and the purpose of PBIS is the best way to show the community that we can work together as one to create success in school and the community. Whaley invites our community members to our annual Gala and Silent Auction. This event raises awareness of what we do and raises money for items for our school store. It allows the community to get an inside look into our school community. We also regularly invite community members to teach lessons or share what they do in the community to give a better perspective to our students.
PBIS is a system that can be implemented at any school regardless of grade level. Creating an environment with specific expectations throughout the building helps students to recognize normalcy in the real world. PBIS should be a means to teach students what daily expectations are in and out of school, thus the success of their actions is rewarded—just like on a job.
What are your experiences with PBIS? How do you work with students, staff, families, and the community to implement and support PBIS in your school?
Robyn Harris has been an administrator for the Anchorage School District for 10 years and is the principal of Whaley School, a separate day school for students with acute behavior needs. She is the 2018 Alaska Principal of the Year.