Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools – Practical Solutions, Positive Results!

PBIS — What You Need to Know

Now we are all PBIS!

Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is no more—or rather the name has changed. The concepts, strategies, and techniques remain, but they have received a new label—Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

As explained in a previous paper, Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is a broad generic term that describes a set of strategies or procedures designed to improve behavioral success by employing nonpunitive, proactive, systematic techniques. It is a construct with its origins in psychology via the theory of applied behavior analysis.

In its beginnings, PBS strategies were employed with people with disabilities (Carr et al., 2002). PBS had two interrelated goals, the first being to improve quality of life by incorporating a secondary goal—to exchange maladaptive behavior for more socially acceptable behavior (Carr et al., 2002). To accomplish these goals, clinicians developed a variety of strategies. They learned to modify the environment in a way that would allow people to be successful. They began to actively teach behavioral skills that increase the potential for success in everyday settings (school, work, recreation, home, etc.). They collected and assessed data to determine whether the interventions and strategies they employed were successful. They paid more attention to appropriate behaviors than they did to misbehaviors. These and other strategies were very successful in special education settings (Carr et al., 1999; Horner, Albin, Sprague, & Todd, 1999).

In 1997, when Congress reauthorized the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, they changed the title of the law to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) AND they added language reflective of PBS success. IDEA 1997 encourages educators—in both special and regular education settings—to consider "positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports," "positive behavioral interventions and strategies," and "positive academic and social learning opportunities" to address student behavior when it "impedes his or her learning or that of others" (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997).

As time passed, more schools began to use PBS strategies, and researchers, in study after study, began to see positive outcomes (Chapman & Hofweber, 2000; Colvin & Fernandez, 2000; Luiselli, Putnam, Handler, & Feinberg, 2005). Today, many educators have come to recognize the importance of PBS tenets and strategies in positively transforming school climates—so much so that when Congress reauthorizes the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in the upcoming months, it is highly likely that the law will include language that encourages schools to implement PBS strategies.

So what does PBIS have to do with all this?

Congress reauthorized IDEA again in 2004. By then, PBS had achieved such recognition that lawmakers decided to formalize its position. Instead of the vague language used in the 1997 reauthorization, this time they spelled it out and used the terms consistently throughout the law. In doing so, however, they did not use the common generic term, PBS, but instead chose "positive behavioral interventions and supports" (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004).

As explained in Positive Behavior Support (PBS) — A Discussion, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) derives from the work of researchers at the University of Oregon. It focuses on schoolwide behavior supports and is simply one model of PBS among many, such as Safe & Civil Schools, Project Achieve, and Positive Action.

Or rather, it WAS one model of many.

With the enactment of IDEA 2004, the status of PBIS changed. By writing the phrase "positive interventions and supports" into the law, Congress in effect rebranded PBIS as the definitive model of positive behavior support.

This unfortunate state of affairs caused confusion among educators, who often thought they could not access a professional development service unless it carried the specific label of PBIS. Organizations like Safe & Civil Schools and Project Achieve that continued to use the generic term found themselves constantly explaining the interchangeability of PBS and PBIS.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education clarified its position with respect to terms (A. Posny, personal communication, September 7, 2010).

The USDOE uses the term "positive behavioral interventions and supports" generically in place of "positive behavior support" in reference to any model or curriculum that employs a proactive, "positive, multi-tiered continuum of evidence-based behavioral interventions that support the behavioral competence of all students" (A. Posny, personal communication, September 7, 2010). It does so because the term PBIS is consistent with the language of IDEA (and may soon be consistent with language in NCLB). However, an even larger factor in using PBIS in place of PBS is that the Public Broadcasting Service has notified the USDOE that it holds the trademark on the acronym "PBS." Hence, nobody can legally use the term PBS except in reference to the Public Broadcasting Service.

Following the lead of the USDOE, Safe & Civil Schools will no longer use PBS in describing its activities. Instead, we now recognize PBIS as the generic term that encompasses all those proactive, positive, multi-tiered strategies and techniques designed to improve quality of life and curtail maladaptive behavior that we used to call "positive behavior support."

In the future, we will use PBIS to describe our theoretical model, our philosophy, and our products and services. In the past, we authored materials that use the term PBS in reference to "positive behavior support." The Public Broadcasting Service is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any of these materials. The term PBS in past materials is equivalent to PBIS in current and future usage.

References for this article are available.