How to Improve School Attendance

A Practical Guide for Schools and School Districts
A Project of the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council

Module 2: Student Discipline and Positive Behavioral Support — 3

Solutions not Suspensions logo
As noted, the Los Angeles Unified School District has already ap­plied some of these principles, as shown in Table 4's list of alter­na­tives to sus­pen­sion for the elementary grades, and Figure 21's top ten alter­natives to sus­pension.48, 49

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Table 4

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Figure 21

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS)50, 51

In the past, school disci­pline has focused main­ly on react­ing to speci­fic student mis­behavior by implemen­ting punish­ment- based strate­gies including repri­mands, loss of privi­leges, office refer­rals, suspen­sions, and expul­sions. Re­search has shown that the implement­ation of punish­ment, especial­ly when it is used in­con­sistent­ly and in the ab­sence of other posi­tive strategies, is inef­fective. Intro­ducing, model­ing, and re­infor­cing posi­tive social behavior is an important ele­ment of a stu­dent's educational experi­ence. Teaching be­havioral expect­ations and reward­ing stu­dents for follow­ing them is a much more posi­tive ap­proach than wait­ing for mis­be­havior to occur before re­spond­ing. The pur­pose of any school- wide positive be­havioral inter­ventions and sup­port pro­gram is to estab­lish a cli­mate in which ap­propri­ate behavior is the norm.51

48 Los Angeles Unified School District
49 Los Angeles Unified School District
50, 51 Narrative adapted from the OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and at alternate URL


One of the fore­most advances in school disci­pline is the empha­sis on school-wide systems of support that include pro­active strat­egies for defining, teach­ing, and sup­port­ing ap­propri­ate stu­dent be­haviors to cre­ate posi­tive school environ­ments. In­stead of using a piece­meal a­pproach of indi­vidual be­havioral manage­ment plans, a con­tinuum of posi­tive behavior sup­port for all stu­dents within a school is imple­ment­ed in areas that include class­room and non-classroom set­tings (such as hallways, buses, and restrooms).

Positive behavior sup­port is an appli­cation of a behavior­ally-based systems ap­proach to enhance the capa­city of schools, fami­lies, and com­muni­ties to improve the link between re­search-vali­dated prac­tices and the environ­ments in which teaching and learning occurs.

The focus is on creating and sus­taining pri­mary (school-wide), second­ary (classroom), and tertiary (individual) sys­tems of support that im­prove life­style results—per­sonal, health, social, family, work, re­creation—for all child­ren and youth by making target­ed be­haviors less effect­ive, ef­ficient, and rele­vant, and desired be­havior more functional.

The OSEP Tech­nical Assist­ance Center on Posi­tive Behavioral Inter­ventions and Sup­ports (PBIS) is a col­labora­tion between the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­cation's Of­fice of Special Edu­cation Programs and 11 tech­nical assist­ance units across the United States.

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OSEP has a ten-year his­tory of defi­ning, im­ple­menting, and evalu­ating PBIS across more than 9,000 schools in 40 states. The Center's logic is based on:

Square Bullet The documented need for improving the social behavior of students in U.S. schools

Square Bullet The demonstrated success of PBIS to improve both student social behavior and academic performance

Square Bullet The demonstrated effectiveness of PBIS as a practical technology that can be imple­mented at socially important scale

Square Bullet The value of school-wide behavior support systems to the education of children with disabilities

Square Bullet A current need to extend PBIS practices to a broader range of students, schools, and contexts.

The Center pro­vides the tech­nical assist­ance to encour­age large-scale im­plement­ation of PBIS, along with the organi­zational models, demon­stra­tions, dis­semi­nation, and evalu­ation tools needed to im­ple­ment PBIS with greater depth and fidel­ity across an extended array of contexts. In addi­tion, it extends the les­sons learned from PBIS im­plement­ation to the broader agenda of edu­cational reform.

Figure 22 shows a fact sheet about the process prepared by Dignity in Schools52

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Figure 22

52 Dignity in Schools

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