Use data to design prevention efforts in 3-tiered PBS system, study says

Teacher Helping Boy With SchoolworkTypically, educators use data or evidence of student need to design interventions only for secondary or tertiary interventions, if prevention efforts are not sufficient.

But a recent article in Preventing School Failure says educators also should use data to develop Tier 1 universal or prevention interventions in PBS so that the interventions are targeted to the specific needs of the student body and to the students who may later need further interventions.

“If screening data can reliably distinguish students who require intensive intervention and provide information leading to improved behavior, it is likely that the data may be effectively used in selecting and developing primary prevention strategies,” the authors write. “Moreover, if teachers are instrumental in providing information leading to identification of at-risk students, it is likely that these teachers would offer valid input as school administrators pinpoint behaviors to become the focus of universal interventions (i.e., primary prevention strategies).”

Front-loading remediation of behavior

One misconception about prevention, the authors say, is that effective prevention means zero incidence. Prevention also addresses problem behaviors that will need further interventions later.

“Findings of prevention research have indicated that early, or front-loaded, approaches are more successful than are back-loaded remediation strategies in reducing risk factors while concurrently building protective factors in children and youth,” the authors write.

“Early prevention and intervention with antisocial behavior forestalls not only advancement of serious problem behaviors, but also development of secondary adverse effects (e.g., academic failure, reduced mental health, social rejection, social maladjustment),” the researchers say.

Educators can use the following data sources in designing the primary prevention tier of PBS, ideally triangulating them:

  • office discipline referrals (ODRs)
  • universal screening measures such as Systematic Screening for Behavior Disorders (SSBD)
  • qualitative data such as surveys, focus groups, interviews and direct observations.

Currently ODRs help educators assess the school climate and provide them with information in 3 areas:

  • what primary, secondary and tertiary pro grams to develop or select
  • what have been the outcomes of those programs
  • what children will benefit from secondary and tertiary programs Office discipline referrals

One of the pitfalls of using ODRs is that they miss children with problematic internalizing behaviors, the authors write. The use of universal screening measures can strengthen a proactive PBS system by identifying children with internalizing behaviors. The authors note that “understanding improvements in behavior at the universal level can contribute to school teams’ establishing effective interventions for all, including students with more intensive and challenging problems.”

  • ODR and SSBD data was collected dur ing the school year
  • Teams identified the most common social and behavioral problems in the school
  • The teams identified the most common social or behavioral problems as: attention-seeking behavior, aggression, lack of respect for others, lack of motiva tion, talking out of turn, Lack of respect for school property, etc. • The teams solicited informal input from other faculty and staff members before selecting interventions
  • Schoolwide interventions selected includ- ed reciting the school pledge, delivering written praise notes, posting rules, and using parent home notes. Social skills were taught schoolwide on how to follow the teacher’s directions, how to accept feedback and consequences and how to show appreciation.
  • The school examined ODRs for K-5 and noticed that 2nd-graders had more ODRs than any other group and that, in general, most ODRs occurred during or shortly after lunch (42%).
  • SSBD data indicated that 10% of the school population was at risk for emotional or behavioral disorders; their most frequent critical events were: “ignores teacher warnings and reprimands,” “is teased, neglected, and/or avoided by peers,” and “steals.” The behavioral areas where the students showed the biggest deficit were: complimenting peers, initiat ing positive social interactions with peers and being socially perceptive.
  • One implication of the data would be for the school team to meet with 2nd-grade teachers to identify possible predictors for the behaviors

Using SSBD data to develop universal interventions is a novel practice, the authors caution. SSBD data is important for addressing the social and emotional needs of individual students at the secondary and tertiary levels, but it can also serve as one of multiple sources of data to improve team decision-making on universal intervention.


“Schoolwide Screening and Programs of Positive Behavior Support: Informing Universal Interventions,” by Michelle Marchant et al., Preventing School Failure, Volume 53, Number 3, 2009, pps. 131-143.

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