Frequently Asked Questions


What is School-Wide PBIS?

Simply put, PBIS is a process for creating safer, more effective schools by reinforcing positive behavior and preventing and addressing problem behavior. PBIS is implemented in three tiers. Tier 1 focuses on setting and teaching behavioral expectations in all areas of the school including the playground, hallway, bus and classroom. Tier 2 and Tier 3 allow educators to focus more closely on the needs of groups or individual students. Throughout the process, data is collected on student behavior. This data is then used by administrators and school PBIS implementation teams to identify and more effectively implement the practices that are right for their school.

How is PBIS different from other approaches to student behavior and school discipline?

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is not a curriculum, intervention, or practice. Rather, it is a process that builds the foundation for making data-based decisions and proactively addresses behavioral issues. Unlike other programs, implementing PBIS does not require a school to abandon the practices it has already established and proven effective. PBIS integrates these practices into a model individually designed by each school.

How long will it take to implement PBIS?

It varies. Why? PBIS is a process, not a program. So, the length of time it takes to get started is different for each school. Schools typically take between three and five years to fully implement all three tiers of PBIS. While most schools see results in the first few months, it can take far longer to completely change the climate of a school. That’s why PBIS is not something you ‘finish,’ it’s something that becomes part of the way your school operates. Behaviors change over time and PBIS gives schools the tools to adapt to those changing needs.

Who will provide training and professional development for this initiative?

Trainings are offered for every step of the PBIS process. To find training in your area please visit the Events Calendar.

What are the steps my school needs to take to become a PBIS school?

  1. Contact your PBIS Regional Coordinator.
  2. Attend Administrative Overview session.
  3. Present the Wisconsin PBIS Network initiative to the staff and assess buy-in.
  4. Form a PBIS School Leadership Team.
  5. Complete a School Readiness Checklist and Commitment for Success Agreement.
  6. Attend team training.
  7. Develop a Strategic PBIS Action Plan.

How will PBIS benefit my school?

Some of the benefits of PBIS include the:

  • proactive and consistent approach to school-wide discipline that leads to improved student achievement through:

    • increased academic instructional time for students, staff, and administrators
    • improved social climate of school
    • decreases in special education referral and placements
    • reduced office referrals, suspensions, expulsions

  • opportunity for staff to be involved in the process of assessing needs and making informed decisions based on the data collected

  • ability to provide increased feedback and support to staff.

  • consistency of expectations for all students across all school areas.

Ultimately, the implementation of PBIS has proven to decrease challenging behaviors and increase positive behavior, thereby increasing overall instructional time.

What are the key components of PBIS?

There are four key elements used in successful PBIS implementation. They are:

  1. clearly defined academic and behavioral outcomes for students and staff
  2. practices based on teaching and modeling proper behavior
  3. data used to guide decision making
  4. systems that help the practices of PBIS to be accomplished faithfully and sustainability.

As these components are introduced, students and staff share clearly defined expectations and goals. Lessons are created to teach and model to students the expected behaviors. Additional supports are available in Tier 2 and Tier 3 for students with greater behavioral needs. The data collected throughout the tiers of PBIS is used to identify the ‘what, when, where, and who’ for student behaviors. This data is then used to make modifications to systems, practices, and supports.

Why is it important to recognize good behavior in students? Shouldn't they already know how to behave?

When students have trouble with reading, we teach. When students don't know their multiplication tables, we teach. When students struggle with expected behaviors, PBIS gives us the tools to teach.

Traditional approaches to behavior often respond with punishment or consequences, under the presumption that children should have already mastered good behavior. These types of approaches often don't work well on their own. Since the expectations have not been clearly established, children often have difficulty seeing and understanding the differences between correct and incorrect behavior.

For example, asking a child to "Be respectful" may mean little unless they actually know what being respectful looks like. Often, teachers and other adults have varying levels of tolerance for the same behavior. This may result in the child formulating a blurry definition of the term ‘respect.’ Respectful behavior may also become subjective for children when adults portray one definition of respect in their own behavior, yet expect another from children.

PBIS gives school staff the tools to determine, teach, and model expected behavior. With these tools, schools are able to successfully increase the positive behavior through on-going recognition. This modeling and practice becomes infused in everyday life in a school. A positive school culture maintains positive behaviors in the school.

Doesn't recognizing positive student behavior make students dependent on rewards?

Students are more likely to practice correct behaviors if they receive frequent and specific positive feedback. Verbal praise is fine, but without a system in place many of us forget to specifically acknowledge positive behaviors. Rewards do not need to be large, fancy or expensive, but visible recognition can often supplement positive praise very effectively. The goal over time is to reduce the frequency of tangible rewards so that behavior becomes internalized. Verbal acknowledgement and encouragement, however, should consistently be given four times more often than correction or reprimand.

What consequences are used in PBIS for students who don't behave?

The first consequence for a minor misbehavior is to re-teach the behavior correctly for the student. This ensures the student knows what is expected. Further consequences depend on the child's age and the nature of the misbehavior. Central to PBIS is the idea that continued misbehavior by children generally serves some purpose or function for them. A "standard" consequence may be unintentionally rewarding that behavior. For instance, if a student misbehaves in the classroom during time for independent math work and the consequence is to be sent out into the hall, the student gets what he or she wanted in the first place - to avoid math work. PBIS emphasizes understanding the function of the behavior - what is the student trying to get or avoid - and then establishes a consequence that brings the student better understanding of the expected behavior.

How will we know if PBIS is working?

When every tier of PBIS is put into practice effectively, a change in the school atmosphere will be quite obvious. The school climate is calmer, more predictable, more family-friendly and more inviting for students, staff and parents alike. In general, PBIS schools find that there are fewer referrals to the office for problem behavior, more time for productive instruction in class fewer distractions for all students. When problem behavior does occur, PBIS schools are able to turn to data to make informed decisions about the next steps to take.

Is PBIS directed mostly at students with emotional or behavioral disabilities?

Positive behavioral supports were initially developed for students who struggled significantly with behavior. However, over the past few decades, educators have recognized these supports to be a highly effective tool in reaching all students. For this reason PBIS is designed in three tiers. Tier 1 reaches about 80% of all students, Tier 2 and Tier 3 are utilized to reach the remaining 20% of students who have greater behavioral needs.

Is PBIS a new idea? Has it been tried successfully in other states?

PBIS was originally implemented in Oregon in the mid 1990’s. Currently, more than 13,000 schools across the country are implementing PBIS and nearly every state has a PBIS coordinator or state-wide initiative underway.

Does the Wisconsin RtI Center - PBIS Network endorse or promote commercial products, vendors or businesses?

No, because of its purpose and functions, the Center on PBIS identifies and recommends general research-based practices (e.g., active supervision, reinforcement, social skills instruction, behavioral contracting, self-management). Although these practices may be included within the products, curricula, etc. of other providers, the Center does not promote specific vendors or endorse commercial products.

Additional Information

Where can I find additional information about PBIS?

You can learn more about PBIS by exploring this website. Wisconsin schools also have a dedicated PBIS Regional Coordinator who provides support and additional resources. To find the PBIS coordinator in your region visit the Regional Coordinators page.

Great information and additional PBIS resources can also be found on the following websites:

What are my next steps for getting started?

If your school is interested in implementing PBIS, please contact your Regional Technical Assistance Coordinator.