Implementing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support in High School Settings: Analysis of Eight High Schools

By Flannery, K. Brigid; Frank, Jennifer L. et al. | High School Journal, April-May 2013 | Go to article overview

Implementing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support in High School Settings: Analysis of Eight High Schools


Flannery, K. Brigid, Frank, Jennifer L., Kato, Mimi McGrath, Doren, Bonnie, Fenning, Pamela, High School Journal


Schoolwide positive behavior support (SWPBS) is a systems-level intervention designed to prevent the occurrence of problem behavior and increase social competence. A growing body of research documents that SWPBS reduces problem behavior and improves academics (e.g., McIntosh, Chard, Boland, & Horner, 2006), yet documentation of the feasibility of implementing SWPBS in high school settings is lacking. The current study examines implementation of universal SWPBS components in eight high schools serving over 15,525 students across a three-year period. Our findings were that improvements in implementation were evident between baseline and the end of year one, yet the implementation of SWPBS practices took a minimum of two years to achieve statistically significant and meaningful changes. These results suggest that unique aspects of the high school context may present specific implementation challenges.

Keywords: positive behavior support, high school, school-wide evaluation tool, discipline

Implementing Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support in High School Settings

Schoolwide positive behavior support (SWPBS) is a systems-level approach based on the three-tiered model of prevention developed within public health. Walker and colleagues adapted it to fit educational settings (Walker et al., 1996; Walker & Shinn, 2002). The goal is to establish the behavioral supports and social culture needed to improve the social and academic behavior of all students (Anderson & Kincaid, 2005; Sugai, Horner,& Lewis, 2009). Accordingly, the SWPBS model requires the implementation of evidenced-based practices and organizational systems that support the establishment of a social culture and individual supports needed to achieve social and academic success (Horner, Sugai, & Anderson, 2010; Sugai et al., 2010). SWPBS is not a "packaged" program but rather provides a structured framework that a school team uses to guide the adoption of practices and design of a continuum of supports at three levels of intensity that match the context and needs of the school.

Core Components of the Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support Framework

This SWPBS framework requires schools to focus on optimizing several foundational systems and implement schoolwide practices designed to prevent and effectively respond to student misbehavior. Foundational systems within the SWPBS model include: (1) identification of important schoolwide outcomes for student learning and behavior; (2) development of organizational systems to support the implementation and sustainability of SWPBS practices; (3) implementation of evidence based practices to create a positive social climate and learning environment; and (4) use of data to monitor progress toward global schoolwide outcomes and facilitate effective data-based decisions (Sugai & Horner, 2006).

These foundational systems are the necessary organizational building blocks needed by schools to successfully implement SWPBS. The foundational systems are interdependent and are intended to operate in unison so that schoolwide outcomes drive the adoption of systems to support the data-based implementation, evaluation, and modification of practices.

SWPBS leadership team. In order to implement these foundational systems, schools form a representative SWPBS leadership team responsible for overseeing and supporting the implementation of a multi-tiered array of evidence-based practices and the implementation of student data collection and progress monitoring. Specifically, the SWPBS school leadership team is charged with overseeing the collection and analysis of data to document changes and identify problems, establishing a continuum of evidence-based student supports, and maintaining staff and student commitment through ongoing communication (Metzler, Biglan, Rusby, & Sprague, 2001; Schneider, Walker, & Sprague, 2000; Sugai & Homer, 2002; Warren et al. …

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