Getting Started

What is PBIS?

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based three-tiered framework for improving and integrating all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day. It is a way to support everyone – especially students with disabilities – to create the kinds of schools where all students are successful.

PBIS isn’t a curriculum you purchase or something you learn during a one-day professional development training. It is a commitment to addressing student behavior through systems change. When it’s implemented well, students achieve improved social and academic outcomes, schools experience reduced exclusionary discipline practices, and school personnel feel more effective.


The way schools operate are their foundational systems. In PBIS, these systems support accurate, durable implementation of practices and the effective use of data to achieve better outcomes. When it comes to systems, ask yourself: What can we do to sustain this over the long haul?


Schools generate multiple pieces of data about students every day. Within the PBIS framework, schools use data to select, monitor and evaluate outcomes, practices, and systems across all three tiers. When it comes to data, ask yourself: What information do we need to make effective decisions?


Key to improving outcomes are the strategies to support students at every level. In PBIS, these interventions and strategies are backed by research to target the outcomes schools want to see. When it comes to practices, ask yourself: How will we reach our goals?


The outcomes from PBIS are what schools achieve through the data, systems, and practices they put in place. Families, students, and school personnel set goals and work together to see them through. In PBIS, outcomes might be improved student behavior, or fewer office discipline referrals. When it comes to outcomes, ask yourself: What is important to each learning community?

Three Tiers of Support

PBIS is a multi-tiered framework – three tiers, to be exact. Each tier aligns to the type of support students need. These three tiers are:

Tier 1: Universal Prevention (All)

Tier 1 systems, data, and practices impact everyone across all settings. They establish the foundation for delivering regular, proactive support and preventing unwanted behaviors. Tier 1 emphasizes prosocial skills and expectations by teaching and acknowledging appropriate student behavior.

Tier 1 foundational systems include:

  • An established leadership team
  • Regular meetings
  • A commitment statement for establishing a positive school-wide social culture
  • On-going use of data for decision making
  • Professional development plans
  • Personnel evaluation plan

Tier 1 practices include:

  • School-wide positive expectations and behaviors are taught
  • Established classroom expectations aligned with school-wide expectations
  • A continuum of procedures for encouraging expected behavior
  • A continuum of procedures for discouraging problem behavior
  • Procedures for encouraging school-family partnership

Tier 2: Targeted Prevention (Some)

Tier 2 systems, data, and practices provide targeted support for students who are not successful with Tier 1 supports alone. The focus is on supporting students who are at risk for developing more serious problem behavior before those behaviors start. Tier 2 supports often involve group interventions with 10 or more students participating. The support at this level is more focused than Tier 1 and less intensive than Tier 3.

Tier 2 foundational systems include:

  • An intervention team with a coordinator
  • Behavioral expertise
  • Fidelity and outcome data are collected
  • A screening process to identify students needing Tier 2 support
  • Access to training and technical assistance

Tier 2 practices include:

  • Increased instruction and practice with self-regulation and social skills
  • Increased adult supervision
  • Increased opportunities for positive reinforcement
  • Increased pre-corrections
  • Increased focus on possible function of problem behaviors
  • Increased access to academic supports

Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized Prevention (Few)

At most schools, there are 1-5% of students for whom Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports have not connected. At Tier 3, these students receive more intensive, individualized support to improve their behavioral and academic outcomes. Tier 3 strategies work for students with developmental disabilities, autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, and students with no diagnostic label at all.

Tier 3 foundational systems include:

  • A multi-disciplinary team
  • Behavior support expertise
  • Formal fidelity and outcome data are collected

Tier 3 practices include:

  • Function-based assessments
  • Wraparound supports
  • Cultural and contextual fit

PBIS in Practice

When schools implement PBIS, they:

  • Regularly check the effectiveness of their practices
  • Pull from a continuum of evidence-based interventions to support student needs
  • Develop content expertise through coaching and on-going professional development
  • Rely on teams to guide implementation
  • Use data to monitor student progress
  • Implement universal screening practices
  • Include community members and families to create culturally-relevant practices.

Check out how schools across the country implemented PBIS where they are.

Explore the Evidence Base for PBIS

At its foundation, PBIS is a framework supported by research spanning decades. Study after study confirms the positive impact these systems and practices have on improving student outcomes. The evaluation brief, "Is School-wide Positive Behavior Support an Evidence-based Practice?" and the article "Examining the Evidence Base for School-wide Positive Behavior Support" each lay out some of the research and provide additional resources to explore the topic further.

Get Started in Your School

Schools interested in implementing PBIS in their settings should start with planning. There are several actions you can take, right now.

Download the Blueprint

Get Your Leadership Team Together

A critical system at every PBIS tier is the leadership team. Whether you are at a district- or school-level your leadership team guides implementation, monitors the overall effectiveness, provides the necessary resources for a successful PBIS framework. Start assembling yours!

Come Up with a Vision and a Purpose

As a team, identify your reasons for implementing PBIS in your school. Write it down so everyone starts with the same vision and purpose.

Complete the Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI)

The Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) assesses how closely school personnel apply the core features of PBIS. The TFI includes three separate surveys – one for assessing each tier – schools can use separately or in combination with one another. Schools at every stage of implementation may use the TFI to assess any tier.

Set Some Goals

What do you want to get out of this implementation? What do you hope to see in the first year? What about in the long-term? Take a look at the vision and purpose you set as a team and think about goals aligning with that mission.

Contact a State or Local Coordinator

Every state in the US has a team ready to help you get started with PBIS in your building. Locate your local coordinator and give them a call.