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Ask the ‘TASC is a PBIS advice column from the RSE-TASC Specialists

Question: What is the best way to implement PBIS in a middle school? A high school?

Response 1:

Erin Leskovic, 

Preschool Behavior Specialist

This is, understandably, a common concern among staff. It is certainly important to recognize those students who are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, so you’ll want to make sure it is explained to staff that tickets/tokens/rewards are for everyone, not just students who require additional support. That said, I’m not sure that “balance” is necessary. If we think of the “good” kids as being in the green section of the PBIS triangle (the approximately 80% of students that receive only universal supports), this tells us that they don’t require any additional interventions. If they are continuing to engage in appropriate behavior, we know that these students don’t need the same level of interventions/supports as students that are receiving higher-intensity supports (i.e., tier 2 and tier 3 supports). It is very common for students with social and behavioral challenges to require higher rates of reinforcement, and the evidence tells us that this is a very effective strategy for promoting positive behaviors and decreasing inappropriate behaviors. Although we are often afraid that students receiving only tier 1 supports will protest or complain if they’re not getting the same rewards as other students, that is actually rarely the case in practice. Most of the time, these students are aware of the peers that require additional support and they are happy for them to get them – the learning environment is better for them when their peers behave, too! An additional option for recognizing these students, rather than using tickets or tokens, would be to provide them with additional responsibility or to encourage more reinforcement to be given between peers, rather than always coming from adults. Encouraging students to complement one another and recognize each other’s positive behaviors can go a long way toward creating a positive school culture, building relationships between students, and ensuring that all students receive positive feedback.

That said, if your data indicate that a significant number of students were “in the green” and their behavioral incidents are increasing and they’re moving toward the “yellow”, then you might want to look back at your universal systems to ensure you have strong tier 1 systems in place, including a positive school climate and culture, which does involve positive interactions with ALL students.

Response 2:

Fran Fernandez, 

Non District School Improvement Specialist

Maintaining a ‘balance’ when reinforcing students in the classroom can be a challenge, but recognizing that it is happening is the first step in making a change. After you learn what motivates students by conducting a reinforcement inventory/ questionnaire, and identify the academic and behavioral skills students are working on in the classroom you are ready to get started. But before you get started with students, adults in the classroom must be aware of their behavior when giving acknowledgments. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you ‘equalize’ reinforcement across your classroom:

  1. How often are you reinforcing each individual student? What for? Does this happen during certain instructional times? Is there another adult in the room that can assist?
  2. Are you constantly moving around the classroom, making sure you provide opportunities for all students in the classroom to earn acknowledgements?
  3. Have you set a specific goal for yourself to acknowledge each student?  Are you making sure to explicitly acknowledge student behavior, so that each student understands what they are being acknowledged for?

As a kindergarten teacher, this was something I was constantly working on. My attention often went to the students who needed more support while the rest of my class patiently sat and waited for me. Ultimately, I used a series of visuals that I placed throughout the classroom to remind me to acknowledge students and keep moving around the classroom. This kept students on their toes and eager to earn an acknowledgement.

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