Can you imagine teaching a lesson with no student interruptions? Or a day dedicated to only teaching?  This may sound like nirvana, but it is possible.

School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (School-Wide PBIS) is a set of systematic practices designed to enhance the learning environment of a school by using a proactive approach to discipline that promotes a positive climate throughout the school. It is not a set program or established curriculum; rather, it is a set of practices on which a school builds its own system that is unique to the climate and culture of the school.

There are 13 schools throughout Northwest AEA that have been systematically working towards building the systems to support the common practices associated with School-Wide PBIS. These buildings range from elementary through middle school, and include both rural and urban schools, as well as private and parochial schools.

Brenda Ferrie, principal at Bishop Heelan's Sacred Heart School, was thrilled to bring the concept to her staff and students.

"Positive Behavior Supports helped us realize that we need to acknowledge more of the wonderful things our faculty and students are doing on a daily basis in our building," said Ferrie. "By acknowledging students and faculty more, our discipline referrals have been drastically reduced because they are excited to receive positive acknowledgment."

At the West Sioux Elementary Schools in Ireton and Hawarden, elementary principal Ryan Kramer says since implementing School-Wide PBIS, referrals to the office have dropped by 75 percent over a three-year period.

"This type of decline only occurs when the structure for discipline has been established by a set of practices that guide teachers to get the best from their students," Kramer added.

Jerome Schaefer, a positive behavior supports consultant at Northwest AEA, has helped many schools change their climates with this model, leading to huge improvements.

"When schools take the the time to develop sustainable systems to support Positive Behavior Supports practices, we have found that they can effectively modify or completely change their approach to school-wide discipline, which impacts the learning opportunities for all students in the school," says Schaefer. "The less time teachers and administrators have to deal with behavioral issues, the more time they have to teach; and the less students are disrupting the classroom or sent out of classrooms for behavioral issues, the more time they have to be engaged in learning."

The five primary practices of School-Wide PBIS include:
- clearly defining behavioral expectations across all settings in the school;
- proactively and systematically teaching these expectations;
-developing a culture in which students are routinely acknowledged for positive behavior more frequently than they are corrected for negative behavior;
- establishment of a clear set of guidelines regarding responses to negative behavior to build consistency across all staff; and
- finally, the use of behavioral data to make decisions about their discipline plan.

For more information about PBIS, please contact Jerome Schaefer at Northwest AEA at 800/352-9040 ext. 6338, or go to the Northwest AEA Web site here. Also, there will be a PBIS forum on March 29 for schools thinking of implementing PBIS with educators from schools that have already implemented the program. For details, please click on the PDF attachment to this article.