RICHMOND COUNTY – The latest buzz in America’s modern education system, and in all Richmond County Schools classrooms, is a four-letter acronym: “PBIS.” But what is “positive behavior intervention and support? Where did this system come from? And most importantly, what does it mean for RCS’ children?
Although the concept of PBIS has been around since 1997, it was not until a few years ago that it started to really generate steam and become a mainstreamed concept. For Richmond County Schools, a focus towards this school wide form of behavior management really began just two years ago.
The district was dealing with an unprecedented amount of office referrals and suspensions, resulting in lost instructional time with students. Simultaneously, state and federal education departments were placing increased pressure on the need to be successful on standardized assessments.
But how can teachers help their students to become proficient on standardized assessments if their behavior is preventing them from coming to class? The district was in a dilemma. PBIS however, could be the answer.
Under traditional school discipline, punishment is the main source of behavior intervention. Students who behave inappropriately receive punishments accordingly, while students who behave as they should receive nothing. With this approach, attempts to change student behavior are very reactive and often punitive.
PBIS, however, is different. Under the PBIS structure, the traditional approach to discipline is essentially reversed. Instead of the reactive approach of punishments, a more proactive, incentives-based approach to behavior management is implemented.
PBIS shifts the focus away from punishment, and into the direction of rewards and incentives. The system works to combine past behavioral data with management practices, and schoolwide systems to model and teach good behavior. PBIS furthers these efforts by offering rewards and opportunities for students who demonstrate appropriate behaviors. The theory is then that students will in turn become more motivated to behave appropriately, and will be less likely to engage in poor behaviors because they don’t want to miss out on the rewards.
Rockingham Middle School PBIS team member Kristen Sides explains that improved student behavior isn’t the only expected outcome of implementing such a system. Improved attendance, stronger relationships with parents and community members, and a more positive school culture are also notable results.
“PBIS creates a consistent culture of expectations within our school to students, teachers, and administrators to be on the same page,” Sides explained. “This consistency is part of what helps the school’s culture shift in a positive direction.”
West Rockingham Elementary School is “R.O.A.R.ing” into PBIS with their ROAR matrix and PAWS Cash. As West Rockingham Assistant Principal, Kevin Wallace explains, ROAR stands for “Respect, Organized, Accountable, and Responsible,” four key attributes that the school actively tries to instill in its students. For displaying these behaviors, the students earn PAWS Cash, themed around the school’s panther mascot.
“We have a ROAR store with different prizes in it,” Wallace said. “Each week, the teachers take their class by the ROAR store and students can spend their PAWS cash if they want too. We also set up nine-week incentives for the students that cost a decent amount of PAWS cash. This teaches students about spending money, either I can spend it all at the ROAR store this week or I can save it up and go to the nine-week incentive.”
Within the middle school environment, PBIS gets a high-tech facelift through the PBIS Rewards system. Both Rockingham and Hamlet Middle Schools have opted to purchase and implement this electronic system for the 2017-2018 school year. In this system, each student is assigned an account, where teachers can award them points on the premise of respect, responsibility, and safety.
Students are then able to accrue points that they can redeem for prizes and incentives. Tickets to “Fun Friday”, movies, free time, and even school dances or sports games are just a few of the things the students can spend their points towards. Rockingham Middle School is also in the process of opening a school store in which students are able to redeem their points on material items such as pride wear and school supplies.
The Ninth Grade Academy also uses the PBIS Rewards system, but takes yet another approach to awarding points. At NGA, all teachers are allotted 20 points per week that they award to students who show exemplary behavior, and go out of their way to be helpful and respectful. The students are then able to save their points throughout the year and redeem them at the school store for privileges or material goods.
However, regardless of the specific from PBIS may take within a school, it is important to not overlook the need to have a discipline system in place. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports go a long way towards influencing students to make the right decisions. And regardless of the incentives, within the process of growing up, students may not make the best decisions. For that reason, all schools still maintain discipline policies to handle inappropriate behaviors as they happen.
If you have questions or would like more information on Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, please go to the official PBIS website, pbis.org. For more information on how this system looks in your child’s school, it’s encourage you to contact your school’s PBIS team.