Academic journal article School Psychology Review

A Randomized Evaluation of the Safe and Civil Schools Model for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at Elementary Schools in a Large Urban School District

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

A Randomized Evaluation of the Safe and Civil Schools Model for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at Elementary Schools in a Large Urban School District

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this article, we report the results from a randomized evaluation of the Safe and Civil Schools (SCS) model for school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports. Thirty-two elementary schools in a large urban school district were randomly assigned to an initial training cohort or a wait-list control group. Results suggested that SCS training positively affected school policies and student behavior. Surveys administered after the commencement of SCS training found large improvements in staff perceptions of school behavior policies and student behavior at schools receiving SCS training that were not observed at wait-list schools. Similarly, we observed reductions in student suspensions at schools implementing SCS that were not observed at control schools. The observed improvements persisted through the second year of trainings, and once the wait-list control schools commenced SCS training, they experienced similar improvements in school policies and student behavior.


Student misbehavior has long been a problem for educators (Danforth & Smith, 2005). In today's schools, disciplining students who misbehave is one of the major tasks educators must face (Nelson & Colvin, 1996). Although major violent or criminal actions in schools continue to decrease, disruptive behaviors (e.g., noncompliance, disrespect, tardiness, truancy) seem to be increasing (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2007, 2010). In the public perception, discipline ranks second in the list of biggest challenges faced by public schools (Bushaw & Lopez, 2010).

Students' disruptive behavior can make other students feel unsafe in school (Mijanovich & Weitzman, 2003), can reduce instructional time (McEvoy & Welker, 2000), and is often cited as the primary reason new teachers leave the profession within 5 years (Schlichte, Yssel, & Merbler, 2005; Sprick, Garrison, & Howard, 1998; Sprick, 2009).

Traditionally, educators resort to punitive methods (e.g., verbal reprimands, time outs, restitution, referrals, suspensions) in their efforts to make students behave appropriately, which are ineffective in improving student behavior (Gottfredson, 1997; Maag, 2001; Skiba, 2000). In fact, punitive methods often serve more to exert authority over the student than to change irresponsible behavior (Noguera, 1995; Sprick, Sprick, & Garrison, 1992). A consensus in the literature argues that punitive methods have no lasting effect on student behavior and, if successful at all, serve to mitigate misbehavior only in the short term (Carr et al., 1999; Skiba & Peterson, 1999).

Research in the areas of applied behavioral analysis, effective schools, and systems change have coalesced over the past 30 years into a set of strategies and policies designed to improve student behavior within a framework of multitiered positive, proactive, and instructional supports. Horner and colleagues (1990) coined the term positive behavior supports in 1990 to encompass this set of strategies.

The term positive behavior supports referred generically to behavioral strategies that incorporated fundamental characteristics such as stating expectations for behavior in a positive manner, teaching those expectations overtly, using quantitative data to make decisions, and monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of implementation (Warger, 1999). Although originally conceptualized as an approach used at the individual student level, a systems-level perspective has led to the incorporation of these strategies into a prevention-oriented, school-wide framework for encouraging appropriate behavior among all students. With the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act in 2004, Congress referred to positive behavior support strategies as positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). The U.S. Department of Education has since used that term, or the acronym PBIS, generically in reference to any model or curriculum that employs a proactive "positive, multitiered continuum of evidence-based behavioral interventions that support the behavioral competence of all students" (A. …

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