Friday, August 21, 2015

PBIS

It stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support.  I’m not going to lie, I was insanely skeptical.  The half dozen people I talked to said it was inconsistent in terms of dealing with school culture, and it hid some of the overarching problems by focusing on a small population.  Many reviews online said that while the number of referrals within schools was way down, the culture didn’t really change. 

I left the two and a half hour presentation with a much better feeling, although there are plenty of questions I have about a systemic implementation at the high school. 

Things I liked:

-This program seems to really target kids that have suffered from traumatic childhood events.  This group is probably a higher in school than most teachers think. 

-The program starts in early childhood and stresses the necessity of providing information to teachers and stakeholders later in the child’s academic career. 

-Data.  More and more data and greater access to data, thus a greater ability for educators to make rational interventions.

-Creation of multiple levels of incentives while maintaining appropriate disincentives for behavior.  We can teach and model social skills but in the end there is still rules that need to be followed. 

Things I Question:

-The program really focused on what is probably about 10% of the population but wants change the culture of the entire institution.

-There was a strong amount of “a lot of kids don’t have a choice about how they act, they are a product of the environment.”  Well, yes and no.  By the time a student reaches me the “product of your environment” tag, while legitimate, will not transfer out into society.  We need to talk about choice, and making the right choices.

-When subject of tardies came up we were shown a dance number from a school in Wisconsin.  Positive school atmosphere.  I get it.  But the problem is not necessarily student buy in, it’s will the teachers be consistent.  That has been a problem. 

-Stop using Norway as a comparable country statistically.  “Look, Norway has a lower recidivism rate.  Why can’t we be more like them?”  Because Norway is a nearly completely homogenous culture of five million people with a massive welfare state supported by petroleum and natural gas.  Bring a little more diversity and increase the population by over 300 million and you might see something different. 

When we debriefed later in the day it was evident that many of my colleagues shared the same hopes and concerns about PBIS.  The data and interventions were much welcomed but some fundamental philosophies had a long way to go.  

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