Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports: Empowering Parents to Participate Fully

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports: Empowering Parents to Participate Fully

Article excerpt

How do schools address safety issues, discipline students, and provide effective instruction? These are questions parents and educators need to answer together. Parents of children whose special needs put them at risk for being bullied worry about the school's ability to protect their vulnerable children. Conversely, parents of children who exhibit challenging behaviors worry that their children may be disciplined unfairly. Some schools are addressing these issues through schoolwide positive behavior supports (SWPBS). With SWPBS, a team, including parents, develops culturally responsive proactive strategies to teach students expected behaviors, SWPBS creates an environment that increases the effectiveness of teaching and learning. This article describes SWPBS and provides information on family involvement.

What is SWPBS?

Challenging behaviors, ranging from the disruption of classroom teaching to physical violence, are safety and disciplinary concerns. Some schools manage challenging behaviors with punishment which might include being sent to the office, taking away privileges, or receiving detentions, suspensions, and expulsions. These reactive practices do not teach appropriate behaviors nor do they result in a safer climate. Furthermore when schools focus on individual situations rather than the entire school climate they provide only a short term solution. One way schools shift from a punishment modality to a more positive approach is through SWPBS where there is a focus on teaching expectations.

SWPBS is a preventative, positive, and predictable approach. The assumption is that you can teach behavior just like academics. Figure 1 contains SWPBS's basic steps: 1) teaching expected behaviors, 2) reinforcing expected behaviors, and 3) enforcing consequences when violations of expected behaviors occurs.

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Teaching Expected Behavior

The SWPBS team (administrators, teachers, school personnel, and parents) creates a vision and identifies three to five expectations across the school for all students. For example: "Be Respectful," "Be Responsible," and "Be Ready."

The team then creates a matrix defining what the expectations look like in various locations and situations across the school. Figure 2 illustrates what the matrix might look like for the expectation of "Be Respectful." The entire staff models, teaches and practices these expectations with the students.

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Reinforcing Expected Behaviors

With SWPBS, administrators, teachers, and all personnel positively acknowledge expected behaviors through consistent meaningful reinforcement such as "caught in the act coupons" (see Figure 3). Students enter tickets in weekly raffles, redeem them to purchase items or for special privileges. Schoolwide assemblies may recognize students as well.

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Consequences for Violations

Additionally, the team identifies minor and major behaviors that violate the schoolwide expectations and designs a consistent meaningful way to respond (see Figure 4).

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SWPBS creates school environments where all children feel safe and can learn through increased academic instruction time and reduced classroom management time. Figure 5 compares schools' procedures for dealing with discipline before and after implementing SWPBS.

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Levels of Support

Schools utilizing SWPBS focus their attention on creating and sustaining supports to meet the needs of all students but understand that is not possible within one level of support. Figure 6 illustrates the continuum of support for students, which includes universal, small group/classroom and individual.

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Universal Support

At the universal level, behavioral support is provided for ALL students. By teaching expectations throughout the school, the intent is to prevent problem behavior. …

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