Don’t just look at data. Use it.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Support is a common approach to supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic achievement. Training for PBIS is the most common reason schools, and districts contact me. Much of the initial work is in helping school- and district-based teams develop the infrastructure to support students and staff. However, once the school puts its plan into place, long-term, effective implementation requires both a school-wide and a small-group / individual focus.

School-wide focus

An enormous component of PBIS is using data to solve problems in real-time. Teams that look at data monthly can identify unexpected behavior patterns and develop respectful solutions. For example, Ha:San Charter School serves Tohono O’odham students primarily and ends their week with a school-wide ceremony. Elders consider wearing hats and earbuds during the Ceremony to be disrespectful. Because the Ha:San team knew that the frequency of hats/earbuds during Ceremony was increasing, they identified a simple solution that all teachers could support: Remind students before dismissing to Ceremony to take off hats and earbuds.

Key Takeaway: Use the data you have to solve problems you’re experiencing right now.

Small-group / Individual focus

Another common reason why PBIS falters is that teams often stop once they’ve developed school-wide infrastructure. However, we expect that some students will need more support to be their best in school. Using data that already exists is a powerful way to identify students who need support right away. Most schools accomplish this through developing Data-Based Decision Rules. For example, students might communicate that they need extra support when they:

  • Visit the office within the first month of school.
  • Generate three discipline referrals within six weeks.
  • Are absent 3-5% of school days during the first quarter.

Once you’ve set a Data-Based Decision Rule, apply to rule to your data to generate a roster. For a variety of reasons, your team may choose not to intervene for every student. However, knowing who is on your roster and why ensures that you meet student needs and elicits equity gaps to address.

Key Takeaway: Using Data-Based Decision Rules elevates the quality of supports for students.

The best part of using data in this way is that you don’t need a Professional Learning Community structure. In fact, a PLC format might get in the way of the work by making things take longer. Instead, the most important task is to measure what matters, communicate data to your team, and take action that serves students and teachers effectively.

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