Implementing PBIS: 6 Challenges and 7 Supports to Consider for Your Schoolwide Program

The goal of Positive Behavior Support is not “perfect children.” Rather the goal should be creating the perfect environment for enhancing their growth.

– Randy Sprick


PDF Pages 39-41

  1. Support from state, district, and school leaders is critical to implementing and sustaining PBIS, particularly for high-need schools
    • Participants from high-need schools perceived resource allocation and distribution as not being matched to student needs in all educational support areas, including PBIS, from the state and district level administration.
  2. Teacher training and buy-in
    • Teachers need initial and ongoing training on the historical foundation and critical components of PBIS, in addition to the specific PBIS framework at their school. Some teachers in high-need schools may require additional support when there are issues with buy-in and implementation. Many times, teachers feel underprepared to handle challenging behavior and complex student issues, and they do not have the knowledge and skill to implement positive, proactive strategies.
  3. Complex high-need student issues
    • Students in high-need schools have several environmental, contextual issues that can serve as barriers to successful PBIS implementation, a positive school climate, and reduced disciplinary problems. Specifically, participants discussed that home, community, and school structures and expectations can vary, which is confusing to students who have to learn two or more sets of expectations and modify their behavior according to their setting.
  4. Lack of parent and community involvement and shared value
    • Participants highlighted that a lack of shared values between the school and the family exists in communities of high-need schools. Lack of parental involvement, poor communication channels, and differing educational approaches in high-need schools create barriers for improving student behavior at school. Some parental educational approaches at home are misaligned with positive, proactive teaching practices at school.
  5. Challenges in secondary schools
    • Participants discussed differences for implementing PBIS in secondary settings. They expressed that in middle and high schools, students continue to struggle with school behavior and, therefore, continue to require explicit instruction in behavior, and that teachers need guidance specific to serving adolescents in secondary settings. Participants identified that low expectations for student behavior, limited options of reinforcers for secondary students, and changing (moving) classes are the factors that correlate with secondary students’ problem behaviors and PBIS implementation.
  6. Culture of poverty
    • Various environmental factors from poverty affect students’ learning and behaviors. Factors highlighted in the discussion include fundamental requirements (i.e., lack of shelter, safety, nutrition, nurturing) and poor quality of life issues, such as changes in caregivers, exposure to violence, bullying, and greater risk for disability resulting from exposure to environmental factors such as poor nutrition or fetal alcohol syndrome. Participants also reported student and school culture differences between high-need urban and rural schools.


PDF Pages 41-42

  1. Classroom management
    • In addition to feeling ill-equipped to provide Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports and interventions, participants discussed a knowledge gap with regard to classroom management strategies for students in high-need schools who exhibit challenging behaviors and experience academic failures. Many teachers struggle with classroom management and rely on ODRs (office discipline referrals) as a reactive means to change behavior. Participants identified that, along with training and support for PBIS, teachers need assistance with positive classroom management strategies and indicated that support from seasoned administrators who can lead improvements in classroom management practices would be helpful.
  2. Preschool and mental health
    • Participants discussed the need for high-quality, publicly funded preschool and school-based mental health services. Participants discussed the difficulty they experience in educating young children who come to school in kindergarten without any previous school experience. Additionally, they discussed the heavy burden experienced in high-need schools to provide wraparound social work and counseling services to students with mental health needs.
  3. Establishing and maintaining high, yet realistic, expectations for students
  4. Need for a contextual fit between teachers who may come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different cultures, and different races from the students they educate
  5. Need for consistency across the building to improve fidelity of implementation and to promote motivation for teachers and leadership
  6. Need for added training and support for teachers in high-need schools in order to incorporate culturally responsive practices in PBIS, classroom management, and wraparound services
  7. Need to integrate community partners and parent viewpoints into the universal PBIS framework

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