Education and mental health leaders understand the need to establish one system of social-emotional and behavioral supports in schools. The Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) is a way to blend PBIS with mental health supports in schools. This framework guides state, district, and community leaders to fund and modify policies and procedures to help every system work more efficiently. Clinicians – supported by integrated district structures – become part of multi-tiered school teams to address the social-emotional and behavior needs of all students. ISF expands the PBIS framework as a way to assist teams and enhance their efforts.
Using an interconnected framework allows schools:
There are four foundational elements to describe an integrated approach for addressing mental health and social-emotional well-being in schools
It is important to have one set of teams with a focus and the decision-making authority to make structural changes and work more efficiently. These integrated teams ensure:
Mental health support is provided for every student. Social-emotional and behavioral skills are taught by all staff, across all settings, and embedded in all curricula. Examples are used to explicitly teach desired behaviors in various situations/contexts in school. Schools use data to ensure there is a plan to ensure core social-emotional and behavioral competencies are the focus of programs at each tier. For example, if a large number of students report stress and anxiety, coping skills should be included in Tier 1 programs.
The team measures the success of its implementation by tracking fidelity and monitoring positive outcomes for students and their families. For this reason, goals should be specific and describe exact improvements you want to see. When programs don’t achieve desired outcomes, teams make adjustments or implement new programs.
ISF is always implemented and aligned with core features of the MTSS framework.
A school’s behavioral health program works best when its implemented within a tiered framework.
At Tier 1, an integrated team of school and community clinicians focus on the social-emotional and behavioral needs of all students. Data at this level include universal screening for both internalizing and externalizing concerns. are used to select evidence-based interventions within a continuum.
At this tier, those who have concerns follow a process to submit a request for assistance. Teams work to connect students to a range of targeted, group-based interventions. Clinicians coordinate and facilitate a continuum of supports to address social skills, problem-solving skills, and coping skills; including for those students who are experiencing anxiety, depression, and the impact of trauma.
At Tier 3, clinicians coordinate individual interventions selected by the systems team. Teams monitor fidelity data and the interventions’ impact, regardless of who implements the intervention. Ongoing coaching, including professional development and technical assistance is provided.
The Interconnected Systems Framework 201 briefly describes the core features of ISF and includes some ideas for how to get started in school settings.
Leadership teams are key to implementing this kind of framework. However, too many teams decreases a systems ability to work efficiently. Look for opportunities to expand or merge existing teams with similar goals.
The integrated team should review relevant school and community data to determine which approaches will meet the needs of all students. In reviewing data, the team should establish measurable goals that include mental health outcomes. Reviewing data prior to the start of the school year helps teams strengthen school-wide prevention efforts.
Districts are encouraged to adopt a structured and comprehensive universal screening process to catch internalizing and externalizing student needs. Rather than creating a separate process for measuring mental health needs, an integrated screening process looks for early indicators of anxiety, depression, and impact from traumatic life experience. All school personnel should be trained on how to recognize mental health challenges and what to do if they’re concerned.
District leadership should develop a training and coaching plan to increase the number of school personnel with social-emotional and behavior expertise and to ensure everyone has an understanding of their role within the interconnected system.
There are many resources available on this website to support implementing the interconnected systems framework. We recommend starting with these:
This monograph describes the Interconnected Systems Framework and offers the benefits and challenges associated with its implementation.
This evaluation brief describes how school personnel can teach social-emotional competencies within a PBIS framework to support systematic, school-wide implementation through a single system instead of competing initiatives. Included are recommendations for how to adjust the PBIS framework to support instruction of these competencies.
Resources in this section include assessments, blueprints, examples, and materials to aid in implementing PBIS.
Publications listed below include every eBook, monograph, brief, and guide written by the PBIS Technical Assistance Center.
Presentations about their experiences, published research, and best practices from recent sessions, webinars, and trainings
Recordings here include keynotes and presentations about PBIS concepts as well tips for implementation.