Pictured left to right is 'Buddy the Blackhawk' at Hinton Elementary. Buddy illustrates the importance of making school-wide expectations visible to all: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Prepared. Right are a few West Monona Middle School Students of the Month.

Northwest AEA has been helping local school systems redefine their approach to discipline over the past 10 years.  School Wide Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports, often referred to as SW-PBIS, is a set of evidenced-based practices that, when implemented with fidelity, creates a positive culture and climate in schools and leads to positive behavioral and academic outcomes for students. There are 556 schools implementing SW-PBIS in Iowa and more than 19,000 schools implementing SW-PBIS across the United States. SW-PBIS implementation is found in 16 countries outside the US, as well.  

According to Jennifer Collins, PBIS coordinator and SWIS facilitator at Northwest AEA, there are 36 schools in Northwest AEA that are in training or implementing SW-PBIS. Nearly one third of these schools started training in the past two years. Recently, there has been an increase in interest by school districts exploring SW-PBIS implementation. Early in 2014, the federal government allocated $23,625,000 for the School Climate Transformation Grant. Schools could apply for this money and use it to develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for schools implementing an evidence-based multi-tiered behavioral framework. This framework is SW-PBIS.  

Schools implementing SW-PBIS in Northwest AEA have demonstrated that their systems can sustain over time.

"After initial training, 82 percent of schools implementing SW-PBIS in Northwest AEA continue to operate with fidelity, demonstrating the sustainability of the framework," stated Collins. "Staff in these schools consistently report that the systems and practices are maintained and sustained over time. SW-PBIS becomes embedded into the school system and becomes the way that school 'does business.'”

Schools implementing SW-PBIS have also demonstrated positive behavioral outcomes. The data reflect that schools implementing with integrity have fewer behavioral incidents referred to the office.

"Schools implementing with integrity rarely have students referred to the office—on average, 91 percent of students in schools implementing with integrity have one or fewer office referrals annually," Collins added.

In a recent survey, schools overwhelmingly report that the work they have done with SW-PBIS has had a positive impact on staff, students and overall school climate. Schools also report that the work they do with SW-PBIS has resulted in more positive behavioral outcomes for students.

"The number of office referrals in three months prior to our start with PBIS was over 200 (2009)! Last year, we had reduced office referrals to 94; and so far this year, (three months into the year), only 33," said Lorie Nussbaum, Gehlen Elementary Principal, a veteran PBIS School since 2009.

Mary Black, West Monona Elementary Principal, a veteran PBIS School since 2010, adds, "We have students who want to be on CICO so their parents can hear about the good things they are doing at school. Overall, it makes us think about being positive and reinforcing the good behavior."

Schools implementing SW-PBIS provide a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) for behavior to meet the needs of all students they serve, as shown below.