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Dr. Fred Jones's
Tools for Teaching

Tools for Teaching Supplies Specifics for PBIS and RTI

The difference between knowing what should be done and being able to do it represents the quantum leap in learning.
~ Madeline Hunter

In the 1990s, the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Dept. of Education, founded the National Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to help schools develop effective school wide disciplinary practices. That program was a response to the disproportionately large number of suspensions, particularly out-of-school suspensions, given to minority students.

More recently, the same Office of Special Education Programs initiated Response to Intervention (RTI) to help schools develop effective instructional practices. The problem being addressed was an unacceptably high rate of academic failure, especially among minority students. As you might imagine, one of the underlying goals of those twin initiatives was to reduce the overburdening of special education resources as more and more students required IEPs.


The focus of both PBIS and RTI is prevention. PBIS focuses on the prevention of discipline problems, and RTI focuses on the prevention of learning problems. As in most models of prevention, overriding importance is given to primary prevention as the only viable means of cost containment. To illustrate, both programs use the following pyramid:

Naturally, that emphasis on primary prevention brings classroom management front and center. What skills and procedures define the green zone? What, exactly, do we want teachers to do?



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Have you seen these Education World articles About Dr. Fred Jones?

* The King of Classroom Management! An Education World e-Interview with Classroom Management Expert Fred Jones
* Preferred Activity Time (PAT) Is Preferred by Kids and Teachers!
* Tips from Fred Jones's Tools for Teaching

Unfortunately, when it comes to supplying specifics, both PBIS and RTI hit the wall. That shortcoming, rather than reflecting a problem with the Office of Special Education Programs, reflects the fact that academic education has ignored classroom management for the past 50 years.

Accordingly, PBIS seeks to serve as a catalyst for the team building and consensus building required to produce a system of discipline management at the district and school site levels. So much for specifics. Similarly, RTI stresses the importance of using research based instructional practices, which they refer to collectively as quality instruction.

But what is quality instruction? A detailed description of high-quality instruction can be found in chapter eight of Positive Behavioral Supports for the Classroom, by Scheurermann and Hall (Pearson Education, Inc., 2008). The authors discuss large group instruction, small group instruction, one-to-one instruction, direct teaching (coaching-modeling-behavioral rehearsal), peer tutoring, and so on. They talk about the importance of clarity, opportunity to respond, the importance of explicit instructions and frequent monitoring, and so on.

In other words, they describe the common knowledge of general education. If that could produce primary prevention, it would have done so by now.

Furthermore, those two programs do not integrate discipline and instruction in classroom management -- something that's essential for success with either. Rather, PBIS and RTI are separate institutions housed at separate universities run by separate groups of academicians. Integration is left to practitioners.


The objective of Tools for Teaching for the past 40 years has been to develop specific classroom management procedures that prevent both discipline and instruction problems. Moreover, in contrast to current initiatives, Tools for Teaching integrates the management of instruction and discipline within the classroom in the form of down-to-earth procedures.

Some of the topics in Tools for Teaching that define the integration of discipline and instruction are:

  • Working the Crowd
  • Praise, Prompt, and Leave
  • Visual Instructional Plans
  • Say, See, Do Teaching
  • Continuous Assessment
  • Incentives for Diligence and Excellence
  • Meaning Business
  • Responsibility Training

Those topics comprise the language of Tools for Teaching, which becomes second nature to trainees. During workshops, teachers often say, Why didn't I get this stuff in college? or Everybody should have these skills.

To put it simply, Tools for Teaching fills in the green zone of the PBIS/RTI pyramid with the how to that's required for success. We receive many e-mails from districts seeking to implement PBIS and RTI who have discovered Tools for Teaching. They use such phrases as gives us everything we need, and has perfect alignment.