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Understanding PBIS
What is PBIS?
PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports) is a process for creating safe and more effective schools.  This research-based systems approach creates an environment that encourages positive behaviors and interactions, while discouraging problem behaviors.  PBIS focuses on improving the school's ability to teach and support positive behavior for all students both in the classroom and school-wide.  This process leads to an atmosphere that promotes academic achievement and social growth.

For more detailed information about PBIS, visit:

As a Response to Intervention model, PBIS applies a three-tiered system of support, and a problem-solving process to enhance the capacity of schools to effectively educate all students.  The Universal Level (Tier 1) supports all students and staff across all settings.  Some students (about 15%) will need additional supports and those are provided through small-group interventions (i.e., classrooms, lunchroom) in the Secondary Level (Tier 2.)  About 5% of students with the greatest behavioral challenges will need intensive support at the Tertiary Level (Tier 3) through individualized and specialized planning.

How Does It Work?
There are three initial steps to establishing and implementing Universal PBIS in a school:

Step 1: Identify and Teach Expected Behavior

  • Identify three to five expectations across environments.
  • Provide examples of what behaviors are expected, including for the cafeteria, bus, and social areas such as the gym or playground.
  • Post the expectations throughout the building.

Teaching the behavioral expectations means that the school PBIS team must identify what the expectations are in different locations across the school day. The team will develop a teaching matrix of the behaviors expected. They will be different in different environments.

For example, let’s consider the expectation of Respect .

A teaching matrix would include details on what respect “looks like” in the classroom, bus, cafeteria, or outdoors. The example below is part of a teaching matrix. It includes classroom, music class, gym, lunch, outdoors, and media lab for an elementary school.

Teaching Matrix: Respect
Class Music Gym Lunch Outdoors Media/Lab
Take turns

Follow teacher directions

Use appropriate voice level
Use manners

Look at teacher

Be a good listener

Take turns
Say Please and Thank You

Listen to adult direction

Use inside voices
Treat the equipment properly

Treat others the way you want to be treated
Use the computers, books, magazines, and furniture correctly

Notice the lunchroom and outdoor recess expectations. The entire staff including the lunchroom and recess staff would teach all students these expectations through lessons, role-playing, and practice. Instead of punishing students for not following the expectations, staff would focus more on the positive (expected) behaviors through a reinforcement and reward system.

Step 2 Positively Reinforce and Reward Expected Behaviors

When students meet school-wide expectations, school staff will note their success with positive reinforcement. This might include praise or coupons that can be used to purchase items at school. It might include weekly drawings for rewards, special privileges, or recognition during student assemblies. All staff (principal, teachers, lunchroom staff, bus drivers, librarians, janitor, etc.) use the system. 

Step 3 Enforce Meaningful Consequences

In addition to teaching and rewarding positive behaviors, the school will identify a consistent way to respond to problem behavior when it occurs. The strategies to address challenging behaviors will be shared with students, staff, and parents. This will help everyone to know and recognize the undesired (unexpected) behaviors.  The process should be shared with families in the school discipline handbook as well as through regular reports. Problem behaviors typically fall under the categories of minor or major problems:

  • Minor undesired behavior is addressed by building staff or the classroom teacher
  • Major undesired behaviors are managed by administrative staff

Some youth need more than Universal support.  For those students, Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions may be necessary.  Tier 2 interventions can be delivered quickly, often in a small group setting (ex., CICO or social skills groups.)  A few students, with challenging or repeat behaviors, may need more intensive support through Tier 3 individualized planningTier 3 interventions are developed and implemented in partnership with family members.

(adapted from pacer;

How Can Parents/Families/Community Members Help?
  • Learn the school-wide expectations in your child's school.
  • Participate on your child's school or district leadership PBIS team.
  • Help teach your children the importance of school-wide expectations at home, at school, and in the community.
  • Use PBIS at home. (See sample home matrix under "Implementing PBIS at Home" bullet on Partnerships page.)
  • Volunteer in school activities.
  • Participate in school celebrations.
  • Share information about PBIS with community members.
  • Help gather resources (e.g., community participation, donations.)
  • Take part in teaching and reinforcement systems in your child's school.
  • Celebrate your child's successes.
(adapted from "PBS Tips for Parents and Educators", National Association of School Psychologist Communique, October 2006)

Get Involved With PBIS in Your Child's School!

If your child's school isn't currently implementing PBIS and you'd like to help get them started, visit: