Back view of a bunch of middle school students walking down the hallway
When schools implement PBIS, they start by implementing it school-wide. Three critical features – systems, practices, and data – work together to promote positive, predictable, safe environments for everyone in all school settings.

What is School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

School-wide PBIS is a multi-tiered framework to make schools more effective places. It establishes a social culture and the behavior supports needed to improve social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes for all students. PBIS is flexible enough support student, family, and community needs.

Foundational Elements of PBIS

The four critical features of SW-PBIS include:

  • Locally-meaningful and culturally-relevant outcomes
  • Empirically-supported practices
  • Systems to support implementation
  • Data to monitor effective and equitable implementation and to guide decision making.


Setting observable and measurable goals helps schools hold themselves accountable to creating the kind of place where every student succeeds. Schools select the outcomes to target based on data they find meaningful, culturally equitable, and centered on students’ achievements or school-level implementation.


Schools implementing PBIS select, implement, monitor, evaluate, and adapt the evidence-based practices they use in their settings. Specifically, they invest in practices that are:

  • Defined with precision
  • Documented with how and for whom to use them
  • Documented with specific outcomes
  • Demonstrated through research to be effective

Because PBIS is not a packaged curriculum or intervention, schools implement the core features of evidence-based practices in a way that fits with the schools’ cultural values.

When it comes to school-wide practices, all schools:

  • Document a shared vision and approach to supporting and responding to student behavior in a mission or vision statement.
  • Establish 3-5 positively-stated school-wide expectations and define them for each school routine or setting.
  • Explicitly teach school-wide expectations and other key social, emotional, and behavioral skills to set all students up for success.
  • Establish a continuum of recognition strategies to provide specific feedback and encourage contextually appropriate behavior.  
  • Establish a continuum of response strategies to provide specific feedback, re-teach contextually appropriate behavior, and discourage contextually inappropriate behavior.


Schools invest in the administrative, professional, and organizational systems critical to sustain PBIS implementation. These systems create the ability to deliver Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 practices. They also serve as the foundation to establish

  • Teaming structures
  • Scheduling practices
  • Staff selection
  • Training and coaching procedures
  • On-going data-based problem-solving routines


School-wide PBIS schools collect and use data to guide their implementation and evaluate outcomes. It is critical to consider the local culture and context throughout the decision-making process to ensure equitable outcomes for all students and staff.

Tiers of SWPBIS: Continuum of Support

The type and level of behavior support provided for any student must match the intensity of his or her needs. Student responsiveness to academic and behavioral supports must guide instructional and intervention decisions. Schools implementing PBIS school-wide must organize behavior support across multiple tiers which increase in intensity as students’ needs dictate.

Tier 1: Universal

Tier 1 supports are delivered to all students and emphasize teaching prosocial skills and behavior expectations. Schools acknowledge appropriate student behavior across all school settings. Tier 1 PBIS builds a social culture where students expect, prompt, and reinforce appropriate behavior for each other. When implemented with fidelity, Tier 1 PBIS systems and practices meet the needs of 80% or more of all students’ needs.

Tier 2: Targeted

Tier 2 supports focus on students who are not successful with Tier 1 supports alone. Students receiving Tier 2 support require additional teaching and practice opportunities to increase their likelihood of success. Tier 2 supports are often successful when provided within groups. At this level, systems and practices are efficient. This means they are similar across students and can be quickly accessed. Schools monitor fidelity and outcome data regularly to adjust implementation as needed. The typical range of Tier 2 supports include:

  • Self-management
  • Check-In, Check-Out
  • Small group social skill instruction
  • Targeted academic supports.

Typically, schools deliver Tier 2 supports to 5-15% of the student body.

Tier 3: Intensive, Individualized

Tier 3 are more intensive and individualized. Schools use more formalized assessments to match interventions to the behavior’s function. They create individualized plans incorporating the student’s academic strengths and deficits, physical and medical status, mental health needs, and family/community support. Support plans emphasize:

  • Prevention of problem situations
  • Active instruction of new, replacement, and adaptive behaviors
  • Formal strategies to acknowledge desired behavior
  • Systematic procedures to reduce the likelihood problem behaviors are reinforced
  • Safety routines
  • Accurate and sustained implementation
  • Data collection procedures to measure fidelity and impact
  • Coordination of family, agency, and other systems of care.

Tier 3 supports target the 3-5% of students with the highest support needs in the school.

Why Implement School-wide PBIS?

Specifically, PBIS implemented school-wide is associated with the following outcomes:[1],[2],[3],[4]

Get Started…

To get started implementing SW-PBIS, identify a representative leadership team. This team typically:  

  • Completes readiness activities like securing staff buy-in and evaluating data systems
  • Identifies relevant training and coaching resources
  • Develops an action plan to guide implementation of PBIS practices, systems, and data school-wide
  • Implements a contextualized approach to PBIS to match the school’s values and culture
  • Monitors, evaluates, and adjusts implementation in an on-going way

To learn more about PBIS resources available within your state, contact your state coordinator.

[1] Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2009). Responsiveness-to-Intervention and School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports: Integration of Multi-Tiered System Approaches. Exceptionality, 17(4), 223-237. doi: 10.1080/09362830903235375
[2] Waasdorp, T., Bradshaw, C., Leaf, F. (2012). The Impact of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on Bullying and Peer Rejection. Archives Of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 166(2), 149. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.755
[3] Simonsen, B., Britton, L., & Young, D. (2009). School-Wide Positive Behavior Support in an Alternative School Setting. Journal Of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), 180-191. doi: 10.1177/1098300708330495
[4] Bradshaw, C., Koth, C., Bevans, K., Ialongo, N., & Leaf, P. (2008). The impact of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) on the organizational health of elementary schools. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(4), 462-473. doi: 10.1037/a0012883

See More/Less


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.