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PBIS Rules, Rewards
Several principals who use PBIS told Education World that they were elated to see that when student behavior improved under the system and teachers had more time to focus on instruction, academic performance shot up as well.
The Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education created and funds a PBIS technical center to disseminate information about effective school-wide disciplinary practices and provide support to schools and districts to implement them.
"We conducted a review of best practices and consolidated them to the fewest number of things educators can do to have the greatest impact," explained Dr. George Sugai, who is the co-director of the national Center on PBIS. The other co-director is Rob Horner of the University of Oregon. Sugai also is a professor of special education and director of the Center for Behavioral Education & Research at the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education. The Universities of Oregon and Connecticut are the lead institutions for the PBIS center, which is a collaborative of six universities and three agencies.
One of the keys to a school-wide behavior management plan is for everyone to agree to a common approach, Sugai told Education World. Educators need to emphasize prevention and positive modeling. The next highest priority is behavior management. "To improve classroom climate, you have to have good classroom management," he said. "Students need to know the consequences for rule violations and teachers have to know what's going on."
Good instruction is one of the best behavior management tools, added Sugai. "When kids are engaged more often with academic engagement that works, they are less likely to misbehave." And when teachers spend less time on classroom management, they can spend more time on instruction.
PBIS focuses on creating and sustaining primary (school-wide), secondary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) systems of support for positive behavior.
Schools start implementing PBIS by developing expectations and rules for the whole school.
At Dewey Elementary and many other PBIS schools, the framework for the rules and expectations are similar to these:
At Dewey, these are called the Dewey Dos. Besides the Dewey Dos, PBIS at Dewey includes a matrix of behavioral expectations; ?Cool Tools, which are lesson plans used to teach students the behavioral expectations; Tiger Tickets, the acknowledgment/reinforcement (reward) system; and ?office discipline referral forms (ODRs).
Little is left to interpretation.
Parents are asked to review the school's code of conduct and behavior matrices with their children and sign a form acknowledging they have read them and return the form to school.
PBIS plays out in a similar way at North Elementary School in Des Plaines, Illinois. "We start with three or four Golden Rules," said Carol Gibbs, principal of the 526-student K-5 school. Gibbs said she inherited PBIS from the prior administration. "I'm sure it was in response to discipline issues which at the time were pretty hefty." And now, "we're in year five [of PBIS]; we're in a good place, but we have a lot to do still," she told Education World.
The first few weeks of the school year at North are devoted to introducing and re-enforcing the rules. "For the first week of school, we focus on what the Golden Rules mean in classrooms," Gibbs explained. "We have training modules for how they work in bathrooms, hallways, classroom, and buses. The second week we do hallways, the third week bathrooms, and the lunchroom we do by grade. For the buses, we walk students through the procedures and then have students sign a contract."
"We took a tip from Ruby Payne," she added. "We tell kids school is like church -- not like home. So they need to be respectful."
Once the rules are in place and reviewed, the other vital component of PBIS is rewards for adhering to the rules. At Dewey, Krugly requires teachers to give out at least ten Tiger Tickets a day. "Adults have to be more positive, rather than being reactive to behavior," he said. Students can redeem the tickets for extra recess time, items at the school store, privileges, activities such as drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, or to participate in special celebrations. Whole classes also can earn Tremendous Tiger Tickets for rewards. One year ten tickets earned a student the chance to try to drop Krugly into a dunk tank. This past school year, the big prize was allowing students to tie-dye shirts if they earned 15 tickets.
Students cannot lose tickets once they have earned them. But for students who commit infractions, there is a graduated system of discipline. (See sidebar, Graduated Discipline)
Krugly also has seen how PBIS helps teachers. In one case, a teacher started the year with a very chatty group of first graders. After two weeks, she was frazzled from constantly trying to quiet them down, he said.
Krugly told the teacher to stop her lessons every three-to-five minutes and write out three Tiger Tickets. She didn't have to pass them out immediately; she could do that during a break. The teacher said that would mean a lot of pausing -- but Krugly pointed out that she already was interrupting her lessons every few minutes to shush the students anyway.
After two days of writing out massive numbers of tickets, the teacher told Krugly that the students' behavior had not yet improved drastically, but she was feeling better because now she was stopping instruction to do something positive -- reward kids who were not chatting.
At the end of three weeks, Krugly said, the teacher didn't have to issue as many tickets because the chatting had decreased. "And she was a happier teacher," he said.
The school-wide system for catching students being good at North school is called Eagle Eyes, Gibbs said. Each classroom has its own reward system.
Luis Tousent, the eighth grade administrative dean at Conway Middle School in Orlando, Florida, said the PBIS reward system has been very effective in his school. "It helped reduce negative behaviors considerably," Tousent told Education World. School administrators began to see a change a year after adopting a school-wide PBIS system. "The whole school has bought into it -- as far as our school goes, it is working well."
In 2002-2003, the first year using PBIS, Conway had 1,621 office referrals for discipline problems, Tousent said. The next year, referrals were down to 1,012, and by 2004-2005, office referrals had dropped to 819. Conway has been considered a top school for the past seven years.
Conway's PBIS program revolves around the motto PRIDE (Preparedness, Respect, Integrity, Dignity, Excellence) and has a reward system for every grade level. Sixth graders receive paper High 5's and seventh graders earn Falcon Dollars for conducting themselves according to PRIDE. Eighth graders accumulate points for academics, conduct, attendance, lack of discipline referrals, and participation in extracurricular activities. Rewards can include being able to leave school earlier some days or being allowed to wear a hat. Administrators are constantly changing the reward system to keep students interested in the program.
"It's so woven into the fabric of the school that it is difficult to think about the school without it," Tousent added
But several administrators said they do not consider PBIS "paying" or "bribing" kids to be respectful and responsible.
"We did have to ask ourselves, 'Do we want to pay kids to behave?'" Krugly said. "But you have to decide what you want more. Do you want kids to perform better? Do you want more instructional time? And people have been rewarding kids for behaving before this. Now teachers have more time to teach and have more time to work with teachers and staff. Over the past five years, test scores have risen significantly and referrals decreased significantly."
Educators also have noted that students continue to follow positive behaviors when they go on to middle school, Krugly told Education World.
And some students are not interested in the rewards themselves, but in amassing Tiger Tickets. "Some kids collect them just to set a goal to see how many they can collect," he said. "About 20 percent don't spend any tickets at all."
Schools need ways to override the negative messages children see in society and rewards do the job, pointed out Tousent. "Here's the situation -- we have powerful forces working against us," he told Education World. "Being smart is not cool, being educated is not cool. We're trying to do anything we can to instill positive behavior. We're trying to motivate kids. At the same time, we don't reward average behavior. You don't get a reward for breathing. We reward outstanding behavior."
For example, if a student who never turns in homework finally completes an assignment, he or she could earn a reward. But if the student turned in homework the next day, there would be no reward, because now he or she is meeting expectations, said Tousent.
Students are extremely motivated by the reward system, he added. The school no longer is allowed to offer food from outside vendors as an incentive, which is unfortunate in a way because it was effective. "Nothing motivates like stuff and food," Tousent noted.
The system works for about 94 percent of students in North school, added Gibbs. "Some kids may need more intensive intervention, like a chart on their desk, and have to check in with the teacher dailybut if you do it [PBIS] correctly, it improves relationshipswith kids, teachers, and parents. It's a framework for improving relationships and increasing the amount of academic time on task."
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2008 Education World