February 19, 2019

The Eye of the Tiger Is Focused on Success Through PBIS

Everyone within the Tech High School learning community is expected to demonstrate pride, respect, and responsibility. Those expectations have been translated to specific behaviors in classrooms, hallways, restrooms, extracurricular activities, on the bus, and more.

Tech High School Principal, Charlie Eisenreich, recalls how a paraprofessional dramatically changed the tone of a learning space simply by distributing gift certificates to students who exemplified positive school behavior. Within a few days of using this practice, she noticed so many students doing things right that she had quickly run out of certificates. Her learning space went from a rule-bound environment to one that was welcoming, where students were noticed for doing the right things. Eisenreich says, “In this case, the adult made the change, not the students. This was a win-win for everyone.”

Tech High School has seen dramatic changes with the implementation of the PBIS framework and tracking used there since 2005. For example, 1,555 students are currently enrolled at Tech and 1,260 of those have had no office discipline referrals for the current school year. Tech refers to these students as falling within the “Green Zone.” The school strives to have at least 80% of its students in the zone each year and, at the end of 2018, 84% were there. Tech’s Green Zone student numbers have increased 20% since 2005 with the inception of the PBIS framework.

Eisenreich says, “We know that when schools create clear expectations and these expectations are enforced, social and academic performance increases. Academic standards follow appropriate behaviors.”

Tried-and-true practices with early beginnings in St. Cloud schools

PBIS is an evidence-based approach that focuses on teaching behavioral expectations in the same way that academic subjects are taught.More than 25,911 schools across the country implement a PBIS framework, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). PBIS gained traction in Minnesota during the 2000s and, today, 30% of Minnesota schools incorporate the framework. St. Cloud Schools were a part of the first regional cohort, along with Princeton, and Clearbrook Gonvick Schools.

In addition, Eisenreich is a PBIS trainer who has helped many schools establish and manage school-wide information data systems to track student behaviors. Beyond work in Tech High School, Eisenreich has also trained teams about how to put PBIS practices in place to support improved school climate and enhance academic instruction to drive student achievement. Eisenreich will train his fifteenth cohort in the summer of 2019.

Relationships: The cornerstone of the PBIS framework

Strong staff-student relationships are the cornerstone of the PBIS framework, according to Eisenreich. These relationships require that the adults in schools really take notice of expected behaviors, so students feel good about what they are doing. “Noticing requires adult care. Families are so busy these days, so school becomes the place where kids connect with influential adults. We have to be a calming force.”

In 2017, Tech High School and nine St. Cloud schools received “Sustaining Exemplar Recognition” for their work with PBIS. These schools document the work of leadership, utilize data systems that measure PBIS framework fidelity and outcomes, and apply this data to action planning and sustainability efforts.

The well-earned recognition does not mean that the school district’s PBIS work is done. Maintaining an improved school climate and supporting positive behavior is ongoing and a core part of the educational environment. As Eisenreich notes, “With 1,555 students at Tech High School, consistency is important. Everyone needs to understand the routines and expectations from one classroom to the next. And we need to give staff the skills to best support students.”

PBIS' link to Resource

Funding for PBIS comes through a Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) federal award for which Resource Training and Solutions is the fiscal host within the northern region of the state. Erin Engness is the PBIS North Regional Implementation Project Coordinator. She, along with PBIS leadership teams, provides logistical support, technical assistance, training, and coaching to schools. Learn more about PBIS.