Representatives from the May Institute, a nonprofit leader in the field of applied behavior analysis, were present at last week’s School Committee meeting, to serve as a source of information regarding positive behavioral intervention supports (PBIS).
“Becoming a PBIS district is a dream of mine,” said School Superintendent Dr. Tutwiler.
The goal of a PBIS district is to improve student performance by organizing school efforts around student behavior. Gaining speed nationally, PBIS equips teachers, students and staff with the tools they need to be successful and connected, by reinforcing behaviors designed to align with the mission of the school.
The Drewicz Elementary School implemented a PBIS system five years ago, and Principal Patricia Hebert has seen countless perks to the program.
“Through teamwork, the community creates a safe and supportive environment where we can grow and become good citizens,” said Hebert.
According to Hebert, part of being a PBIS school requires that students must be safe, respectful, responsible, attentive, and positive on school grounds. A reminder of these five core values is listed on posters throughout the school, and each morning the fifth-grade students lead the “Drewicz Pledge, voicing their commitment to the values.
“We have lesson plans that teach students to behave in all the school locations and everyone including cafeteria workers, teachers, paraprofessionals, and students know which voice level is designated in certain areas of the school.”
The PBIS system is one that is rewarding and promotes good behavior. Students can earn dolphin dollars, golden tickets, and ribbons for following through with the core values and having good attendance. Every month, PBIS is celebrated at an assembly, where students are recognized for exceptional behavior.
“The best part is that everyone is on board,” said Hebert, who consistently touches base with students who have been recognized. “I can’t say enough about PBIS, it really has made a difference at our school.”
Instead of suspensions and disciplining students outside the classroom, a PBIS school shifts the focus to keeping the student in the classroom and getting to the root of the problem. With PBIS at Drewicz, instructional time is more effectively used for teaching and the overall school environment is calm and conducive to learning.
“Students are in class and we aren’t dealing with as many behavior problems as when I started six years ago.”
Dr. Erik Maki, Clinical Consultant from the May Institute, said that PBIS provides a toolbox for teachers, so they are armed with the skills to confront challenging behaviors in the classroom.
“Instead of sending the kid away, we instead ask, why the student is partaking in a particular behavior, and we put a strategy in place to get them on the right track,” said Maki. “Teachers are expected to teach content to multiple students and manage behavior, and they are not necessarily trained on what to do if a student acts out.”
Hebert shared her advice on how to put a PBIS leadership team together, one that rotates every three years to gain a fresh perspective with new teachers. As a result of a state grant, the Drewicz School has a contract with the May Institute and falls under the tier 2 category, which allows for small group intervention, however; several other schools in the district are currently under the tier 1 category, which is the basic model.