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PBIS framework helps support students and staff, reduce problem behaviors

Mt. Pilchuck principal Weatherbie welcoming students to the gym

Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School Principal Malissa Weatherbie, left, and Dean of Students Bethany Anderson, right, welcomed students to the gym for the first assembly of the school year by reviewing the ROAR expectations —Respectful, On task, Appropriate and Responsible. This is a Tier One PBIS activity.

Principal Ivelia handing out popsicles to students

Lake Stevens High School leaders welcomed students to the 2022-23 school year with popsicles (above) and clear and concise Viking Way expectations. This included what it looks like to be respectful, responsible and ready at lunch and in the cafeteria (below). This information was embedded in the student handbook with photos and videos to engage students. The high school has also introduced signage throughout the school emphasizing the Viking Way.

PBIS signage as it appears in the LSHS handbook

As Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School’s first assembly of the school year got underway, Principal Malissa Weatherbie and Dean of Students Bethany Anderson welcomed students to the gym. Half of the students—kindergarten, first- and second-graders—had never participated in an all-school assembly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Weatherbie and Anderson praised students for quietly entering the gym and finding their seats—publicly recognizing students for following the school’s ROAR expectations.

ROAR stands for Respectful, On task, Appropriate and Responsible. Students who follow these schoolwide expectations can earn Panther Pride tickets throughout the day and in various locations around school beyond the classroom—such as the library, music class, recess and the cafeteria. After the students were settled, Weatherbie and Anderson drew two Panther Pride tickets from a large bucket of tickets students had earned over the last few weeks. Two lucky students were able to participate in the assembly from the comfort of bean bag chairs in the front row of the assembly. This was a special way to recognize students for meeting ROAR expectations.

This activity is one example of the Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) that are happening throughout the Lake Stevens School District this year.

What is PBIS?
PBIS is an evidence-based, three-tiered framework to create safe, positive and equitable schools where every student can feel valued, connected to the school community and supported by caring adults.

PBIS is one of the most widely used behavior and climate tools in schools, because it reduces problem behaviors and increases student and staff well-being. The framework helps staff teach and reteach student expectations with consistent responses and procedures when expectations are not met. It’s a prevention strategy, not a punishment.

There are three tiers to the PBIS framework:

Tier One
Practices and systems establish a foundation of regular proactive support while preventing unwanted behaviors. The school provides these universal supports to all students, school-wide.

Tier Two
Support students who are at risk for developing more serious problem behaviors before those behaviors start. These supports help students develop the skills they need to benefit from core programs at school.

Tier Three
Students receive more intensive, individualized support to improve their behavioral and academic outcomes. At this level, schools rely on formal assessments to determine a student’s need.

How does PBIS help our students? Why do we need it?
“If a student’s social and emotional needs are not met, or if they struggle with behavior and that struggle is met with punishment rather than targeted behavioral instruction, all other areas of their educational experience will be impacted,” said Gina Anderson, Chief Academic Officer. “This doesn’t just impact their own learning, but negatively impacts the educational experience of their peers, as well. It can also impact the teaching experience of the staff in their building. The PBIS framework provides consistency for all students, which helps reduce problem behaviors and improves school climate. The strategy also supports our goal of increasing students’ sense of belonging in all of our learning spaces.”

Each school has adopted three to five schoolwide, culturally-inclusive behavior expectations. Setting these clear expectations is important, because PBIS recognizes that students can only meet behavior expectations if they clearly know what the expectations are, and what the expectation looks like and sounds like in practice. These expectations are then deliberately taught and retaught systematically until they become embedded in the school’s culture. PBIS helps develop a common language for school staff and students to have these important discussions.

Along with these clear expectations, each school has a system to acknowledge and reward meeting expectations that reaches all students. Each school also has a system to collect behavior data and a team to review and respond to it.

Digging into the data to create a focused plan
Lake Stevens School District surveys its students, staff and families on an annual basis. The past three school years have been incredibly challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic and acts of school violence throughout the country, and these concerns were clearly shown in survey results.

The top concerns from Lake Stevens School District employees in the June 2022 survey were student behavior, attendance and accountability. The top concerns from Lake Stevens School District families in the June 2022 survey were bullying, student behavior and school safety.

Student results from the Panorama survey, which was given in the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022, show students report a lack of respect from peers; impacted learning due to the behaviors of other students; a disconnect from adults at school; and a low sense of student belonging.

In addition to this quantitative data, district and school leaders used other feedback from colleagues, students and families which also expressed these same challenges.

What did we do with the data?
The data showed a strong need for student behavior support. Along with their everyday duties, building leaders were overwhelmed by COVID-19 health and safety requirements, though, and the impacts that the pandemic had on our students.

In an effort to provide this support to our students and staff, each secondary school and elementary school (with the exception of Hillcrest who has an Associate Principal) now has a Dean of Students. The Deans have partnered with their building principals to provide overall leadership to the daily operations of the school. They oversee discipline and attendance, and serve as a liaison between students/families and administration while working with the school counselor(s), behavior paraeducators and school staff.

Deans, counselors and behavior paraeducators participated in a two-day training this summer to strengthen school-wide behavior expectation systems. This included an exploration of Multi-tiered Systems of Support and PBIS. The training also allowed these key staff members to collaborate with their building principals to plan for this school year. These employees and others make up each school’s PBIS Team.

PBIS Teams from each building meet regularly at the district level to collaborate and share best practices, and they meet monthly within their own schools to review their students’ behavior data and plan how to respond at a Tier One level. A smaller group is simultaneously learning how to support students who need more intensive, Tier Two intervention for behavior and social and emotional needs.

SWIS
To be able to effectively track trends in student behavior, each school implemented the School-Wide Information System (SWIS)—a comprehensive, real-time online behavior referral system that helps school leaders understand which behaviors are happening in their buildings every day, where, and why.

How will we know if we’ve made progress?
Every school has its key PBIS components in place, along with a dedicated PBIS team. These interventions should result in decreased behavior issues and concerns in our students. SWIS will be used to track these trends. We should also see an increase in student, staff and family perception data on future surveys. And, most importantly, we should see an increased sense of belonging and self efficacy in our students, and an increase in their overall academic growth, as a result.