OSEP Towards Effective Behavioral
Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and
To achieve this purpose, this document is organized into two sections: (a) Introduction and (b) Research-Based Promising Practices. In each section, we describe the elements that are essential to establishing and sustaining an effective school-wide behavioral support system.
Although school districts may vary greatly in size, resources, and myriad of other factors, the organizing principles and strategies for conceptualizing, designing, implementing, and sustaining instructional and behavioral change are fundamentally the same for individual schools. This is the case whether the school is located in rural Alaska, Montana, or Mississippi or in urban Los Angeles, Miami, or Chicago.
In this document, a "systems approach" to implementing and sustaining behavioral and instructional change at the school building or school-wide level and a continuum of positive behavior support are emphasized. Key factors to this approach include (a) team based decision-making and problem solving processes, (b) student assessment and progress monitoring systems, (c) research-validated practices for maximizing and supporting student learning, and (d) instructional and behavioral practices and systems that are effective in establishing and sustaining desired changes in individual schools.
The goal of this document is to delineate a set of principles, strategies, and examples that are characteristic of a model for designing, implementing, and sustaining effective behavioral practices and supports in schools for all children, particularly those students who are at serious academic and behavioral risk. Clearly, a comprehensive system is comprised of an integrated organization of instructional and behavioral supports; however, this document focuses on effective behavioral support systems.
The Challenges Facing Schools
The behavioral challenges facing schools are great and varied, and the challenges reveal themselves in conspicuous ways. The following examples illustrate this range of behavioral challenges:
high school with 880 students reported over 5,100 office discipline
referrals in one academic year.
First, schools are asked regularly to "do more with less." Each year schools are asked to embrace new initiatives (e.g., school-to-work transition planning, character education, early literacy, safe and drug-free schools, standards based assessment) by state and district leadership. In contrast, schools rarely are told to discontinue previous initiatives that tend to consume time and resources and may not be producing meaningful outcomes.
Second, educators lack the supports needed to gain and sustain their attention on a "primary prevention" agenda. When not engaged instructionally and directly with students, a teachers time is consumed by a never ending litany of meetings, extracurricular activities, student assessments, curricular accommodations, individual student counseling, and so forth. The immediacy of these demands overshadows primary prevention efforts that require sustained implementation and often result in delayed academic or social benefits. Because primary prevention activities (e.g., school-wide literacy programs, research-based instructional approaches to teaching academics, social skills instruction, proactive school-wide discipline, after school enrichment activities) require a sustained effort and do not produce immediate results or solve prevailing problems, attention wanes, and events that require immediate action (e.g., classroom disruption) take precedence.
Third, systems are not in place at the school-building level to support the adoption and sustained use of research-validated practices. Curriculum decisions and program modifications are not made in an informed manner, research support or evidence for a practice is not investigated, organizational structures (e.g., leadership teams) are not used to guide decision-making processes, and administrators are not involved actively and on a sustained basis to ensure the day-to-day implementation of effective programs.
Finally, a proactive unified effort involving the school, family, and community often is not in place. In general, relationships between the school and families are informal and neutral, and communications are intermittent and mostly informational. Collaborations among community agencies, the schools, and families are short-term and unsystematic.
Given these challenges, it is clear that simple solutions (e.g., one-shot staff development activities, short-term instructional and behavioral interventions, numerous curriculum programs and interventions implemented in a particular grade) will be inadequate to affect sustainable increases in the desired academic and social behaviors of students. Instead, the response to these challenges must be systemic, sustained, and strategic. A technology of effective school-wide discipline practices exists, but schools must learn to "work smarter not more" (Kame'enui & Carnine, 1998) to support the adoption and sustained use of these effective practices, reclaim instructional time that has been lost to organizational inefficiencies, and make informed decisions.
Research-Based Promising Practices
Overview of Effective Behavioral Support Systems
The major problem with such an approach is not necessarily found in the practices themselves, although sometimes the practices are more popular and fashionable than effective in increasing student performance. Instead, the major problem is that the processes, structures, and routines of the school itself are not sufficient to support the adoption of and sustained use of research-validated practices. Zins and Ponti (1990) and Sugai and Horner (1999, 1994) suggest that the major problem is a failure to establish a "host environment" that enables schools to work smarter and as a coherent and focused system. The ever-increasing gap between the performance of students at risk for later academic and social failure and their same-age peers who are excelling requires more than a presentation on an effective reading, social skills, or behavior management curriculum or practice. Such a gap requires effective instruction and programs that are sustained in the host environment of a school.
While student performance is the bottom line, it does not take place in a vacuum or a singular context but in a complicated host environment (Zins & Ponti, 1990; Sugai & Horner, 1999) of classrooms and schools that involves professionals, policies, programs, and practices that interact in complex ways. At least three important reasons suggest why effective practices, programs, and accommodations have not been adopted or sustained in general school settings.
·Second, an intervention is frequently adopted before a formative and continuous feedback loop is established at the school-building level that provides priority information on the effectiveness of an intervention in a timely manner.
·Third, a new intervention
invariably is adopted for the short term and not the long haul.
This newly adopted intervention is not embraced and conceptualized
as a primary program of prevention and intervention from the very
outset, and it is not adopted with specific contexts and host environments
An effective behavioral approach begins by considering the school as the foundation for conducting the business of teaching and learning. Six major features characterize an effective behavioral and instructional "systems" approach to thinking about schools as complex host environments of change: (a) the adoption and sustained use of research-validated practices, (b) data-based decision making, (c) a team-based problem solving and decision making process, (d) active administrator involvement and leadership, (e) an instructional design analysis of teaching social and academic skills, and (f) a continuum of behavioral support.
Adoption and Sustained Use of Research-Validated Practices
Schools that maintain effective behavioral support systems are characterized by the adoption and sustained use of research-validated practices. However, the adoption of effective practices that are based on trustworthy research can be enormously difficult for schools because the temptation is to adopt fads that overemphasize ease and social or emotional appeal. These fads lack empirical evidence of their effectiveness and are based on invalid theoretical tenets (Carnine, 1997). For example, the list of effective and preferred practices is clearly defined and unequivocal in the areas of behavior and classroom management (e.g., Gresham et al., in press; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). An essential feature of the implementation of research-based practices is that data on student performance must be collected frequently and reliably to monitor the fidelity of the implementation of an intervention and the effectiveness of the practice.
When educating students with the most antisocial behavior, educators have little room for error. Interventions must be efficient and effective if the social behavioral gap between these students and their peers is to be narrowed in a meaningful way. For students with antisocial behaviors, programming should emphasize social skills instruction, academic and curricular restructuring, and behavioral interventions. Approaches that emphasize the use of insight-based group counseling, psychotherapy, and punishment should be avoided (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1996; Lipsey, 1991; Lipsey & Wilson, 1993; Tolan & Guerra; 1994).
Data-based Decision Making
A systems approach to effective behavioral and instructional support requires the use of data or evidence to support decision-making. For example, data are needed to answer (a) "Whats in place?" (b) "Whats working?" (c) "What are our goals?" and "How do we modify what we are doing to support and/or enhance student outcomes?" Recent research (Sugai, Sprague, Horner, & Walker, in press; Tobin & Sugai, 1999a; 1999b) indicates that office discipline referrals or behavioral incident reports can be used to direct discipline efforts toward specific programming targets. For example, if more than 40% of students in a school receive one or more office discipline referrals, school improvement efforts should focus on school-wide discipline. Similarly, if fewer than 20% of the students in a school account for all the annual office discipline referrals, a school team should begin by considering a group-based targeted intervention for those students. In the absence of obtaining frequent, reliable, and valid indicators of student discipline, it would be enormously difficult to ascertain whether a school-wide discipline plan represents a wise investment.
A Team-based Problem Solving and Decision Making Process
Effective behavioral support systems involve a team-based approach to problem solving and decision making. A team-based approach allows participation by a large proportion of school staff, increases the collective expertise of the group, provides opportunity for greater staff input, leverages a broad-based staff commitment, and enhances the impact of both implementation and dissemination efforts.
The behavioral leadership teams should be comprised of (a) an administrator, (b) teachers who are representative of grade levels (or departments in high schools), (c) parent(s), and (d) support staff (e.g., counselor, school psychologist). The team should have the instructional and behavioral competence to conduct environmental analysis, collect and analyze data, develop social skill lessons, and develop and make accommodations to specialized behavioral support plans. In addition, the behavioral intervention teams should meet on a regularly scheduled basis (e.g., once every two weeks), and the primary focus of the meetings should be on examining student performance data to determine if students are making adequate and timely progress.
Finally, the building-level teams should have a high status in the governing structure of the school. Because concerns about discipline have been consistently among the top four concerns among parents, school personnel, and community members over the past 16 years (Elam, Rose, & Gallup, 1996), schools must establish and maintain structures that allow for (a) regular monitoring of the status of discipline and student performance, (b) development of policies and practices that prevent the initiation and growth of discipline and learning problems, and (c) systems of curricular and instructional support for staff, students, and parents. High status means that this team provides school-wide leadership, establishes school improvement priorities, and has priority in resource use.
Active Administrator Involvement and Leadership
Administrators are critical and indispensable to an effective behavioral and instructional support system (Horner, Sugai, & Horner, 2000). Although teams can provide important leadership, their influence decreases when decisions focus on resource management, personnel issues, budget allocations, policy interpretation, and the like. Administrators must be seen as the building leaders of effective instructional and curricular practices, behavior and classroom management, and school-wide discipline practices and policies. Their leadership serves as the critical linkage between the school, parents, school board, and the community. To this end, the administrative leadership must not be viewed as gratuitous or symbolic. Instead, the administrator must embrace the details of the system and be considered more knowledgeable of the system than anyone in the school building. Finally, he or she must lead by example, if indeed staff are to implement the system reliably and relentlessly.
An Instructional Design Analysis of Teaching Social and Academic Skills
One of the important features of this particular systems approach to discipline is the way it views behavior. Most approaches to managing behavior and discipline problems ostensibly treat behavior problems as a matter of withdrawing something positive (e.g., loss of privilege) or presenting something negative (e.g., suspension, detention, verbal reprimand). Rarely do classroom management approaches view behavior in the context of instruction or as an instructional problem (Kame'enui & Darch, 1995; in preparation). For example, when academic skills are taught, emphasis is placed on the presentation of positive examples, corrective feedback, and reminders/prompts that support correct academic performance. Effective behavioral and instructional support systems approach classroom and behavior management in a similar manner (Colvin, Kame'enui, & Sugai, 1993; Kame'enui & Darch, 1995; Colvin, Sugai, & Patching, 1993; Sugai, 1992). First, expected behaviors and social skills are taught directly and with precision (e.g., model, lead, test) (Sugai & Lewis, 1996) in the same manner used, for example, to teach reading letter-sound correspondences in the teaching of beginning reading. Second, infrequent social behavior errors are corrected in a proactive manner by focusing on the features of the correct response rather than the error. Third, chronic social behavior errors are "precorrected" like chronic academic errors by providing social skill reminders and practice before the social behavior error occurs (Colvin, Sugai, & Patching, 1993; Sugai, 1992).
Continuum of Instructional and Behavioral Support
The effective instructional and behavioral systems approach emphasizes a continuum of support in which the intensity of practices and interventions increases as the complexity and intensity of academic or social behavioral problems increases (see Figure 1) (Sugai & Horner, 1994; 1999; Walker et al., 1995). Universal interventions are sufficient to ensure academic and social success for a majority (80-90%) of students in schools because these students have the prerequisite experiences and skills to benefit from school-wide and classroom-wide instruction. The emphasis is on "primary prevention," which is preventing the development of new cases of academic or problem behavior (primary prevention) (Caplan & Grunebaum, cited in Simeonsson, 1994).
For a smaller number of students (10-15%) who are exposed to significant risk factors and lack necessary protective factors, more specialized interventions are required to remediate academic and behavioral challenges that are unresponsive to universal interventions. At this level, secondary prevention strategies (i.e., intensive, small group interventions) are required to decrease the number of cases of academic or problem behavior.
Students who require highly individualized and specialized interventions comprise a small percentage of the school enrollment (about 1-5%). These students present academic or behavioral challenges that are highly resistant to primary and secondary prevention strategies, and are likely to need long-term supports to reduce the intensity and complexity of their problem behaviors (tertiary prevention). These students are most likely to be the recipients of special education services or wraparound services in which specialized interventions from multiple service systems (e.g., education, mental health, juvenile justice) are involved.
Effective School-wide Discipline Practices
Systems Approach to School-wide Discipline
School-wide discipline is more than simply establishing rules for problem behavior and then enforcing these rules by reacting to students who violate the rules. School-wide discipline is both proactive (positive and preventive) and reactive, and it emphasizes the establishment of a predictable, safe environment where successful teaching and achievement are promoted. Effective school-wide discipline consists of four interrelated and dependent systems: (a) school-wide, (b) nonclassroom, (c) classroom, and (d) individual student.
First, the school-wide system includes the administrative procedures and practices (e.g., school rules, standards of performance, assessment system for gauging student academic performance) as well as the curriculum programs and materials (e.g., social skills, character education) that affect all students, staff, and settings. Second, the nonclassroom system focuses on settings and environments (e.g., playground, hallway, bus loading zone, cafeteria) in which academic instruction is not emphasized and supervision is stressed. Third, the classroom system focuses on the curriculum and instruction in the major academic areas (e.g., reading, language arts, social studies, math), and the behavior management routines and practices that are required to support instruction. Fourth, the individual student system emphasizes specially designed, individualized interventions for the relatively small proportion of students who do not benefit from the general education curriculum and the supports typically available through school-wide and classroom levels.
Although each of these four levels has its own unique features, each has an impact on the others. For example, the school-wide level creates consistency and predictability across the other three levels and serves as the foundation for their operation. If the school-wide system is not effective in meeting the needs of the greater student body, sustainable programming becomes difficult for the relatively small proportion of students who are high risk for academic and/or social behavioral failure. If a teacher's classroom instructional and behavioral programming is inadequate for the majority of students in his or her classroom, programming for students who require more targeted interventions is unlikely to be maintained.
Features of Effective School-wide Discipline Practices
Although discipline often is assumed to be associated with controlling and reacting to displays of problem and rule-violating behavior, a proactive system of school-wide discipline must be comprehensive and include seven key components: (a) statement of purpose, (b) statement of expected behavior, (c) procedures for teaching expected behavior, (d) continuum of procedures for encouraging expected behavior, (e) continuum of procedures for discouraging rule-violating behavior, (f) procedures for monitoring fidelity and effectiveness of implementation, and (g) procedures for preventing and responding to emergency and crisis situations (Colvin, Sugai, & Kame'enui, 1994; Sprick, Sprick, & Garrison, 1992).
Statement of purpose. Because of the intrusiveness of student problem behavior, "discipline" commonly is defined by procedures that focus on control and punishment consequences. This discipline perspective is incomplete without attention to the development and support of prosocial behavior. Therefore, in this document, discipline has been defined as the steps or actions teachers, administrators, parents, and students follow to enhance student academic and social success. As such, discipline is conceived as an instrument for success for both teachers and students.
A proactive school-wide discipline system must have a statement of purpose that (a) captures the explicit objective of an approach to discipline, (b) reflects an agreed upon approach to discipline, (c) is stated positively, (d) is focused on everyone in all settings of the school, and (e) emphasized instructional and behavioral outcomes.
Clearly defined expected behaviors. Based on the purpose statement, students, teachers, administrators, and parents need a means of communicating with each other about acceptable and unacceptable social behavior performance. Behavioral rules serve this purpose; however, attention is misplaced on a long list of rule-violating behaviors. While these rules are necessary, a set of rules should be established for expected or desired behaviors. This list of expected behaviors should (a) consist of no more than three to five rules, (b) be stated positively, (c) use common and few words, (d) be visible throughout the school, and (e) be applicable to all staff, students, and settings.
Procedures for teaching expected behavior. Although expected behaviors are posted or published, it should not be assumed that students and staff are fluent with their meaning and use. More importantly, rules about expected behavior must be taught directly so they become part of the verbal culture of the school. In general, the features of a direct social skills instructional approach should be considered to teach expected behavior: (a) provide a rationale, explanation, and description of the expected behavior; (b) define the expected behavior in observable terms; (c) select positive and negative examples of the expected behavior; (d) provide modeling and behavioral rehearsal opportunities in a controlled context; (e) provide prompts for displays of the expected behavior in natural contexts; and (f) provide regular feedback for errors and appropriate displays of the expected behavior (Sugai & Lewis, 1996).
Procedures for encouraging expected behavior. After school-wide expected behaviors have been taught, procedures should be implemented to encourage them. A range or continuum of positive reinforcement procedures should be implemented. The goal is to give students the capacity to "internalize" or self-manage their own behaviors; however, like academic skills, they will need help from the teachers and peers to gain independent fluency with the expected behaviors. In general, these procedures should consider factors that range from (a) tangible (awards, coupons) to social reinforcers (verbal praise), (b) external (teacher, parent, administrator) to internal (self-delivered) feedback, (c) frequent (each period, daily) to infrequent (once a week, each Friday) opportunities, and (d) predictable (end of each period, day, week) to unpredictable (sometime during the day, randomly selected day of week).
Procedures for discouraging problem behavior. Most schools have established procedures for processing rule-violating behavior that are guided by district and state policy. The greater challenge is increasing the consistency and appropriate use of these procedures. Schools should establish (a) clear definitions of problem behavior and categorize them into two or three (e.g., minor, major, illegal) categories based on severity, frequency, and intensity; (b) agreements and clear distinctions for which problem behaviors will be managed by administrative staff (e.g., physical assaults, weapons) and by teaching/supervisory staff (e.g., hats, tardies); (c) a functional office referral or behavioral incident recording form that enables monitoring and accountability; (d) a means of determining the purpose or function of the problem behavior (i.e., escape/avoidance for a person or situation, access to a person or situation); (e) a continuum of consequence procedures (e.g., verbal correction/reprimand to brief timeout to removal from setting); (f) procedures for initiating a problem solving team (e.g., student/teacher assistance team) after two to three problem behavioral incidents; (g) precorrection and redirection programs for students who are chronic rule violators; and (h) high rates of positive reinforcement for displays of expected behavior.
Procedures for record-keeping and decision making. Data on the implementation of a school-wide discipline program must be collected and used to ensure that (a) ineffective discipline practices can be modified or discontinued in a timely manner, (b) the effectiveness and efficiency of successful programs can be enhanced, and (c) more specialized behavior supports can be arranged quickly for students who display chronic problem behaviors. One of the most commonly available sources of data is office discipline referrals or behavioral incident reports. To be used for decision-making, a staff member should be designated to be in charge of the collection and summarization of the data. Summaries of the data should be presented on a regular schedule (e.g., weekly/monthly) in a formal manner (e.g., faculty meeting). Graphic displays of the data are more useful than number presentations.
To guide the decision making process, data decision rules should be used to evaluate the effectiveness of school-wide discipline strategies and processes (Sugai, Sprague, Horner, & Walker, in press). For example, if greater than 40% of the students are represented in the office discipline referrals, an examination of the school-wide system should be considered. If most of the behavioral incident reports are generated by less than 5% of the student enrollment, implementation of a specialized, group intervention for these students might be examined. These kinds of decisions would be considered by the school leadership team.
Procedures for preventing and responding to emergency and crisis situations. The previous six steps of a proactive school-wide discipline system are intended to establish and promote a positive school climate in which consistency, communication, and success are emphasized. However, although they are low incident events, schools should establish procedures for preventing and responding to emergency and crisis situations.
In general, the impact of crisis and emergency situations can be minimized and the effectiveness and efficiency of the response can be maximized if (a) a comprehensive, positive school-wide system is in place; (b) a strong home-school-community connection is established and maintained; (c) students and teachers experience high rates of academic and social success on a daily basis; (d) clear, written policies and procedures are in place; and (e) all students and staff receive regular, supervised opportunities to practice.
Summary of a Systems Approach to School-wide Discipline
The purpose of the previous section was to provide a general overview of the necessary components of a proactive school-wide discipline system. It is important to remember that discipline systems should be designed to ensure student and staff success, not just control or react to problem behavior. In addition, the effectiveness of school-wide discipline systems is related to the effectiveness of the instructional support systems that are in place.
To conclude and summarize, the following "big ideas" should be considered:
1. Schools must work smarter, not harder, in their
efforts to improve the literacy and behavioral outcomes of all students.