What is PBIS?

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based three-tiered framework for improving and integrating all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day. It is a way to support everyone – especially students with disabilities – to create the kinds of schools where all students are successful.

PBIS isn’t a curriculum you purchase or something you learn during a one-day professional development training. It is a commitment to addressing student behavior through systems change. When it’s implemented well, students achieve improved social and academic outcomes, schools experience reduced exclusionary discipline practices, and school personnel feel more effective.


The way schools operate are their foundational systems. In PBIS, these systems support accurate, durable implementation of practices and the effective use of data to achieve better outcomes. When it comes to systems, ask yourself: What can we do to sustain this over the long haul?

Schools generate multiple pieces of data about students every day. Within the PBIS framework, schools use data to select, monitor and evaluate outcomes, practices, and systems across all three tiers. When it comes to data, ask yourself: What information do we need to make effective decisions?

Key to improving outcomes are the strategies to support students at every level. In PBIS, these interventions and strategies are backed by research to target the outcomes schools want to see. When it comes to practices, ask yourself: How will we reach our goals?

The outcomes from PBIS are what schools achieve through the data, systems, and practices they put in place. Families, students, and school personnel set goals and work together to see them through. In PBIS, outcomes might be improved student behavior, or fewer office discipline referrals. When it comes to outcomes, ask yourself: What is important to each learning community?

Three Tiers of Support
PBIS is a multi-tiered framework – three tiers, to be exact. Each tier aligns to the type of support students need. These three tiers are:

Tier 1: Universal Prevention (All)

Tier 1 systems, data, and practices impact everyone across all settings. They establish the foundation for delivering regular, proactive support and preventing unwanted behaviors. Tier 1 emphasizes prosocial skills and expectations by teaching and acknowledging appropriate student behavior.

Tier 1 foundational systems include:

An established leadership team
Regular meetings
A commitment statement for establishing a positive school-wide social culture
On-going use of data for decision making
Professional development plans
Personnel evaluation plan
Tier 1 practices include:

School-wide positive expectations and behaviors are taught
Established classroom expectations aligned with school-wide expectations
A continuum of procedures for encouraging expected behavior
A continuum of procedures for discouraging problem behavior
Procedures for encouraging school-family partnership
Tier 2: Targeted Prevention (Some)
Tier 2 systems, data, and practices provide targeted support for students who are not successful with Tier 1 supports alone. The focus is on supporting students who are at risk for developing more serious problem behavior before those behaviors start. Tier 2 supports often involve group interventions with 10 or more students participating. The support at this level is more focused than Tier 1 and less intensive than Tier 3.

Tier 2 foundational systems include:

An intervention team with a coordinator
Behavioral expertise
Fidelity and outcome data are collected
A screening process to identify students needing Tier 2 support
Access to training and technical assistance
Tier 2 practices include:

Increased instruction and practice with self-regulation and social skills
Increased adult supervision
Increased opportunities for positive reinforcement
Increased pre-corrections
Increased focus on possible function of problem behaviors
Increased access to academic supports
Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized Prevention (Few)
At most schools, there are 1-5% of students for whom Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports have not connected. At Tier 3, these students receive more intensive, individualized support to improve their behavioral and academic outcomes. Tier 3 strategies work for students with developmental disabilities, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and students with no diagnostic label at all.

Tier 3 foundational systems include:

A multi-disciplinary team
Behavior support expertise
Formal fidelity and outcome data are collected

Tier 3 practices include:

Function-based assessments
Wraparound supports
Cultural and contextual fit
PBIS in Practice
When schools implement PBIS, they:

Regularly check the effectiveness of their practices
Pull from a continuum of evidence-based interventions to support student needs
Develop content expertise through coaching and on-going professional development
Rely on teams to guide implementation
Use data to monitor student progress
Implement universal screening practices
Include community members and families to create culturally-relevant practices.
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