Positive behavior support (PBS) is a broad range of systemic and individualized strategies for achieving important social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behavior. PBS's key attributes include proactivity, data-based decision making, and a problem-solving orientation (Horner, 2000; Lewis & Sugai 1999; Sugai, et al., 2000; Weigle, 1997). As an extension of applied behavior analysis, PBS does not have a sole and discrete focus of remediating a student's inappropriate behavior in a clinical setting through the expertise of a clinician using a functional analysis. Rather, PBS emphasizes a lifestyle focus in natural settings implemented by teachers, families, and perhaps others, using an array of assessment and support procedures (Carr et al., 1999; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1999). A key focus of PBS is building responsive environments that "stack the deck" in favor of appropriate student behavior and preferred quality of life outcomes.
Research on PBS is in the process of evolving toward a focus on schoolwide and systemwide models. The OSEP National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Supports and Interventions characterizes schoolwide PBS as having three components including (a) universal support, (b) group support, and (c) individual support (Horner, 2000; Lewis & Sugai, 1999; Sugai et al., 2000). These components exist on two continua. The first is a continuum of scope of students involved. For example, universal support is provided to all students, while the next two components are provided to a decreasing number of students (see Figure 1). The second continuum is intensity, which refers to the strength of support for each student. Universal support is the least intense component, and each of the next two components is increasingly more intense in terms of the support that is provided (see Figure 1). Based on data provided by Homer and colleagues (R. H. Horner, personal communication, June 12, 2001), 76% of the students from 26 middle schools (15,713 students) received zero or one office discipline referral during the school year (students without serious problem behavior), 15% received two to five office referrals (students at risk), and 9% received six or more office referrals (students with intense problem behavior), as illustrated in Figure 2 (left triangle). Generally, this translates into the general percentages of students who will require universal, group, and individual support.
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In order for schoolwide PBS to be fully implemented, each of these three components should be addressed, and all students who require support within each component should be receiving the appropriate degree of intensity. In our experience, some people frequently interchange the concepts of schoolwide and universal support, implying that a schoolwide model only involves universal support. To the contrary, meeting the needs of all students requires a scope and intensity continua ranging from providing positive support to address the least intensive behaviors of all students to providing supports needed to address the most intensive behaviors of a more limited number of students.
This article describes a case study within a case study (Yin, 1994). The larger case study is a description of an emerging model of schoolwide PBS through ongoing work we are conducting in partnership with Central Middle School, an inner-city school in the Kansas City, Kansas, School district. Central educates approximately 762 students who attend sixth through eighth grades Central is located in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, in Wyandotte County. This county has the second-lowest graduation rate in the state (68%), the highest percentage of children in poverty in the state (32%), and the third highest number of childhood deaths in the state (Kansas Kids Count, 2000). Central reported 26.8 violent acts (i.e., malicious acts that result in out of school suspension or expulsion) against other students per 100 students compared with the district average of 9. …