Implementation Across US

Implementation of School-wide PBIS across the United States

Scott A. Spaulding, Robert H. Horner, Seth L. May, & Claudia G. Vincent

November, 2008

Research Statement and Rationale

This evaluation brief examines the proportion of U.S. schools engaged in School-wide PBIS (SWPBIS) implementation, as of October 1, 2008, as reported to the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Currently, nearly 8,000 schools are in varying stages of adopting SWPBIS, and this number is expected to increase over the next decade given the additional requirements by federal and state agencies that schools produce social and academic outcomes (Doolittle, Horner, Bradley, Sugai, & Vincent, 2007; Sugai, 2007; IDEA, 2004; NCLB, 2001; Kauffman & Horner, 2007). As SWPBIS is adopted by more schools, districts, and states, it is helpful to examine the pattern of use across and within states.

Data Sources

The two data sources for this research brief are (a) the National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (TA-Center) and (b) the Common Core of Data provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

TA-Center Data

The TA Center establishes a PBIS coordinator within every state who serves as a state-level contact point for SWPBIS. This coordinator provides dissemination of SWPBIS implementation and training to school districts within each state. In many cases, these school PBIS efforts are coordinated through a state leadership team, designated subsequent to (a) completion of the PBIS Blueprint Self-Assessment, (b) development of an action plan, and (c) direct collaboration with a TA-Center partner.

Twice each year, the TA Center gathers information from all state coordinators regarding the number of schools implementing SWPBIS across the U.S. These schools have initiated or completed a SWPBIS training sequence, available through the TA-Center online library (at In addition, school personnel have received assistance and support from a TA-Center partner. Other readiness criteria for PBIS schools include active participation from a building-level administrator and “student social-behavior” as one of the top three school improvement goals. However, implementation fidelity of these criteria was not assessed in this report.

It is possible that in some instances, schools may implement SWPBIS even though districts neglect to report this information to state coordinators (e.g., the school is a new adopter of SWPBIS or the school may have received training from an organization not coordinated by the TA Center). Thus, the summary information presented in this research brief should be interpreted with caution as an exact estimate of SWPBIS implementation.


Although the data reported by state-level coordinators provide information on counts of schools implementing SWPBIS, the NCES data provide a broader context of implementation across all U.S. schools. The NCES Common Core of Data includes information describing school, student, and staff characteristics for public elementary and secondary schools in the United States, reported annually by state education officials (Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). For comparison with the number of schools implementing SWPBIS, we summarized NCES data from the academic year 2005-2006 for each state. These data were segmented into the following grade-level categories, and included both regular education and alternate/ juvenile justice schools: pre-kindergarten, K-6, 6-9, 9-12, and K-8/12.

Data Presentation

Table 1 presents a descriptive summary of the number of schools implementing SWPBIS, as reported by all states (and the District of Columbia) as of October 1, 2008. The number of schools implementing PBIS is divided into five, grade-level categories for each state: preschool/early childhood, elementary, middle/junior high, high school, and alternative/center school.

Overall, 7,953 schools are engaged in adoption of SWPBIS. In total, 47 states (including DC), report some level of implementation. Across all grade levels, the number of schools implementing SWPBIS ranged from 0 (Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, and Nebraska) to 804 (Illinois). The total number of schools within a grade-level ranged from 132 (preschools) to 4,954 (elementary schools). Based on this report, 31 states have a state leadership team in place to coordinate PBIS efforts.

In Figure 1, the number of schools implementing SWPBIS is compared with all U.S. public schools within each state. Notably, there is discrepancy between the number of SWPBIS implementation schools (n = 7,953) and the total number of U.S. schools (n = 100,627) across all states. However, this difference varies within states, too. For example, regardless of the total number of schools, some states show significant separation between these two counts (e.g., Arizona, California, New York, Texas, Washington), whereas other states show much less of a difference between number of SWPBIS schools and number of total schools (e.g., Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina). These differences are further illustrated by Figure 2, which shows the proportion of schools within each state that are engaging in SWPBIS implementation. In Figure 2, higher bars indicate higher percentage of implementation within a given state. The total number of schools implementing SWPBIS across all states represents 8% of all U.S. schools.

Summary of Findings

This evaluation brief presented data illustrating the number of U.S. schools implementing SWPBIS, including the proportion of schools within each state. Overall, implementation of SWPBIS is occurring on a broad scale, and some states are further along in their state-wide implementation efforts than others. Nearly every state is implementing SWPBIS, and this effort is supported by state leadership teams across 31 states. As SWPBIS continues to scale-up, evaluation of implementation efforts should continue to include numbers of schools engaged in process. In addition, these evaluations should consider (a) number and proportion of school districts, (b) level and fidelity of implementation, (c) impact on student outcomes, and (d) sustainability of SWPBIS efforts.


Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data, 2006-07 [Database]. Retrieved August 20, 2008, and available from Common Core of Data, National Center for Education Statistics Web site,

Doolittle, J., Horner, R. H., Bradley, R., Sugai, G., & Vincent, C. G. (2007). The importance of student social behavior in the mission statements, personal preparation standards, and innovation efforts of state departments of education. The Journal of Special Education, 40, 239-245.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. 1400 § et seq. (2004).

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. (Public Law 107-110).

Kaufman, A. & Horner, R., (2007). A Survey of state initiatives to improve behavior support in schools, and the impact of these initiatives on state education policy. Manuscript in preparation.

Sugai, G. (2007, July). Sustaining school-wide positive behavior support. Presentation at OSEP Project Directors’ Meeting, Washington, DC.

Citation for this Research Brief

Spaulding, S. A., Horner, R. H., May, S. L., & Vincent, C. G. (2008, November). Evaluation brief: Implementation of school-wide PBS across the United States. OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Web site: