2016 Children’s Mental Health Report

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Multi-tiered System of Supports

We already have programs in many schools that integrate concepts of SEL and restorative justice. These programs are showing positive results; the next step is to integrate them more fully with individualized interventions.

Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is a large-scale behavioral intervention in widespread use in schools in the United States. It is intended to effect systemic change in school discipline and behavioral outcomes through training, reporting and constant feedback.

PBIS is an example of a “multi-tiered system of supports” (MTSS) or “response to intervention” (RTI) model. All students and classrooms receive a “universal intervention” aimed at improving academic success, discipline and school functioning through a set of positive behavioral expectations.⁴²

At the second “tier,” students identified as “at risk” receive more targeted interventions with the expectation that with support they will move back to tier one.

At the third tier, students with significant academic, behavioral or emotional problems receive individualized and evidence-based interventions designed with the aid of individualized evaluation.

PBIS is intended to provide support in mainstream settings to reduce the need for special education. The universal, “tier one” application of PBIS is called “School-wide PBIS,” or SWPBIS, and is in place in approximately 17,000 US schools⁴³

A four-year randomized controlled trial looked at 12,334 children in 37 schools. Children in PBIS schools were:

  • 33% less likely to receive an office discipline report (ODR) ⁴⁴
  • Suspended 10% less often than children in comparison schools⁴⁵

The universal school-wide intervention has small but significant positive effects on:

  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Concentration problems
  • Emotion regulation
  • Prosocial behavior

⁴² OSEP Technical Assistance Center. SWPBIS for Beginners. Retrieved January 20, 2016.

⁴³ George, H.P. (2012). National PBIS landscape.

⁴⁴ Bradshaw, C.P., Waasdorp, T.E., & Leaf, P.J. (2012). Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports on child behavior problems. Pediatrics. 130(5). doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0243

⁴⁵ Bradshaw, C.P., Mitchell, M. M., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Examining the Effects of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Student Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Effectiveness Trial in Elementary Schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. 12: 133. doi: 10.1177/1098300709334798