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Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

Milwaukee Public Schools has had a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system in place for several years. Manitoba Mardi Gras Celebration

Research supports that a PBIS system, implemented with fidelity, effectively reduces classroom disruptions and student suspensions through a schoolwide, systematic, tiered-intervention approach that leads to increased student achievement. Schoolwide PBIS provides an operational framework for achieving these outcomes.

More importantly, PBIS is not  a curriculum, program, intervention, or practice but is a decision-making framework that guides selection, integration, and implementation of the best research-based academic and behavioral practices and interventions for improving student academic and behavior outcomes for all students.

Schoolwide PBIS emphasizes four integrated elements: (a) data for decision making, (b) measurable outcomes supported and evaluated by data, (c) practices with evidence that these outcomes are achievable, and (d) systems that efficiently and effectively support implementation of these practices.

Schools that establish systems with the capacity to implement schoolwide PBIS with integrity and durability have teaching and learning environments that are

  • less reactive, aversive, dangerous, and exclusionary and
  • more engaging, responsive, preventive, and productive.

In addition, these environments are more effective and efficient in their capacity to

  • address classroom management and disciplinary issues (e.g., attendance, tardiness, antisocial behavior),
  • improve supports for students whose behaviors require more specialized assistance (e.g., emotional and behavioral disorders, mental health), and
  • most importantly, maximize academic engagement and achievement for all students.

Students in line- LongfellowThe district requires schools to use "Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible" as their schoolwide expectations. The expectations are clearly defined for each of the common areas or times throughout the school. The expectations are systematically taught and demonstrated through behavioral lesson plans, also known as “Cool Tools,” on a schedule developed by the Tier 1/universal team. The schedule is largely dependent on school data, both objective and anecdotal, that suggests which potential or problem behaviors need to be addressed as priorities.

Students are frequently recognized and appreciated, often when they least expect it, for following the expectations. They are “caught doing the right thing” as part of a schoolwide recognition system. Schools often will use some type of “ticket” system as part of a token-economy system where students can earn a reward. Rewards may be individualized or classroom-based and can vary from school to school. Schools with middle and high school grades are encouraged to have a student advisory group to help identify which rewards may be valued most by the students.

When problem behavior does occur, PBIS supports agreement within the school about what constitutes a minor (managed in the classroom) versus a major (managed in the office) behavior. This is developed through the use of a simple T-chart. There is a clear set of definitions and processes for situations that involve negative behavior so that the school environment becomes a calmer, more predictable, and more consistent place to be for students and adults alike.

Tier 1 Supports

Tier 1 includes all the supports offered to all students to help students reach the behavior expectations of the school.

Area-Specific Expectations and Posters

The areas of hallways, main office, classrooms, cafeteria, media center, gym, playground, computer lab, and other locations in which students are located need posters with specific rules for that area under the school’s expectations of Be Safe, Be Responsible, and Be Respectful.

Every classroom should have a behavior matrix with classroom-specific rules during various transitions (small-group work, lining up, taking a test, etc.) to fit within the school’s expectations.

PBIS hallway poster- Burdick


All schools need to have verbal and tangible acknowledgments for the students to receive when meeting a specific behavioral expectation. These acknowledgments should be on your acknowledgment matrix as high frequency, medium frequency, or low frequency. High-frequency acknowledgments occur on a daily basis when students reach the behavior expectations and include a verbal acknowledgment tied in with a tangible acknowledgment. Medium-frequency acknowledgments are used as a classroom and/or designated group of students to be recognized after attaining a level of expectation for a given period of time (a classroom receiving 5 gold stars in a month, or all 6th grade students who receive 15 PBIS stars). Low-frequency acknowledgments should occur quarterly, are schoolwide celebrations, and are used to celebrate successes and re-focus students on the schoolwide expectations.

High-frequency acknowledgment examples:

  • Verbal
  • Positive call home
  • Postcard home
  • Gotcha slip/notes/certificates directly to student
  • Reading positive notes at an assembly or on daily announcements
  • Posting notes on PBIS bulletin board
  • Acknowledge behavior with a PBIS ticket
    • Ticket goes into PBIS raffle (classroom or schoolwide)
    • Students save up tickets for PBIS store
  • Students have a PBIS card that is stamped by staff to acknowledge positive behavior
    • Completed cards entered into PBIS raffle
    • Completed cards used for PBIS store
  • Classroom progression system
    • All students begin on lowest level
    • When positive behavior is exhibited, student (or class) goes up one level
    • Some acknowledgment received at each level
  • Clothespin/sticker system
    • Students achieving expectations are given a clothespin or sticker
    • Students with XX number at end of day achieve BLANK

A T-chart should be developed by all staff members working together. The T-chart displays which behaviors by students should be handled at the classroom level by the teacher, and which should be referred to the office for an administrator to handle.

example t chart

Behavior Lessons/Cool Tools

On a weekly basis, all staff members will take time to teach their students a Cool Tool on a pre-determined behavior. This behavior will be selected by looking at data and seeing what the school’s area of focus is with regard to behavior. These Cool Tools will help students understand what the expectations are and will give them tools on how to succeed in reaching these expectations.

Schools should also have "boosters" or assemblies on a regular basis to remind all students and staff of the expectations and build excitement around your PBIS framework. Boosters should take place at the beginning of the school year (PBIS kick-off), after natural breaks in the calendar (after winter and spring break), and anytime students need a reminder of the behavior expectations.

Zablocki PBIS Kick-off
PBIS Language on a Daily Basis

PBIS lives and breathes in what we do on a daily basis and in how we interact with everyone every day. Positive language must be maintained in all school communications, whether it is newsletters home, emails, daily announcements, signs in the halls, bulletin boards, or any other communication. Interactions with every student need to remain in the ratio of 5-to-1 positive interactions. All staff should verbally acknowledge desired behaviors and positively redirect students exhibiting negative behaviors and work with them to reach the desired behaviors. PBIS Tier 1 should just be a part of what you do on a daily basis and must reach every student.

Bulletin Boards

Schools are encouraged to dedicate a bulletin board in their school solely to PBIS. This bulletin board can be used to provide updates to everyone about what is occurring with PBIS, can remind students of the expectations, can be used to publicize acknowledgments, or for any other purpose to increase the involvement of everyone with PBIS. Schools should also have posters in the hallways and classrooms that draw everyone’s attention to them and publicize PBIS and the expectations.

More MPS examples

PBIS Bulletin Board

Tier 2 Interventions 

Tier 2 is designed to provide intensive or targeted interventions to support students who are not responding to Tier 1.

Milwaukee Public Schools is using the following decision rules for Stage 1 screening of a student's Tier 2 eligibility:SAIG Group

  • Kindergarten through grade 8 if a student receives 1 office discipline referral (ODR) in 20 school days
  • Grades 9 through 12 if a student receives 3 office discipline referrals (ODRs) in 20 school days
  • Kindergarten through grade 8 if a student receives 1 out-of-school suspension in 90 school days
  • Grades 9 through 12 if a student receives 2 out-of-school suspensions in 90 school days
  • Any teacher, parent, or student (self-selection) can also refer a student for Tier 2 consideration

After Stage 1 screening, the school's building intervention team (BIT) will consider additional data such as the nature of the ODR, credits, grades, attendance, teacher input, work samples, observation, etc., to determine whether a student should receive a Tier 2 intervention and which intervention.

All interventions must be progress monitored on Infinite Campus under RtI. For more information on Infinite Campus, please speak with your PBIS external coach or visit our Professional Development web page.

Check-In/Check-Out (CICO)

CICO is the initial intervention at the Tier 2 level. When CICO is implemented, the student checks in briefly each morning and afternoon with a designated adult who is a member of the school staff. The check-in process lasts no more than two to three minutes, and the adult will check in with up to ten students each morning.

The adult begins the student’s day with a positive interaction, providing the student with verbal reminders about what is expected of him or her. The adult can also determine whether a student is not ready for class and have the student remain with them for further assistance and guidance. Each student in the program receives a daily progress report (DPR) that is used to track their behavior throughout the school day according to the expectations.

The teachers mark each section of the DPR with the student’s level of success at meeting the expectations for every class period. It is recommended that the teachers write only positive feedback while verbally providing corrective feedback. At the end of the school day, the student goes to his or her designated adult for check-out. The adult will provide feedback and encouragement to the student. The day’s points are added up, and a student takes a copy home for a parent/guardian to sign. The points are also entered into Infinite Campus by the CICO data entry person.

Individualized CICO

Individualized CICO involves adjusting one or more particular elements of the CICO framework for a specific student. Usually CICO should be the same for every student. You do not want to individualize for every student. 

One could individualize the following aspects of CICO:

  • Morning greeting time (student is always late)
  • Morning greeter adult (student does not get along with usual morning greeter)
  • Add a check-in at a specific time (have student check in right after lunch as they usually struggle after lunch)
  • Have teacher carry DPR (student usually loses the DPR)
  • Others
Social Academic Instructional Groups (SAIG)

If, after individualized CICO, the student is still not meeting his or her goals as identified by DPR data, the Tier 2/secondary team recommends the student to a SAIG. Success with CICO is determined as those students who receive an 80% on their DPR for 80% of the time over the course of four or more weeks. Those students who do not meet this criterion should be recommended for a SAIG.

A SAIG is designed to teach students appropriate behaviors that will lead to success. A SAIG can be created around a specific behavior or need. Students may also be directly referred to a SAIG if there is a distinct need addressed by a pre-existing SAIG, such as students who are new to the school. Students should be selected for a SAIG based on data and their behaviors as failing to meet the schoolwide expectations, not based on life circumstances (don’t have a SAIG for pregnant teens; that is a support group, not a SAIG).

Once the target behavior is identified, the SAIG facilitator creates lesson plans that teach skills to help students become more successful. For example, if the target behavior is fighting, the lesson plan will teach problem-solving skills or anger management. If leaving the room without permission has become a problem, the SAIG lesson plan will teach ways to cope inside the classroom rather than leaving (e.g., safety zone techniques).

Any staff member can lead these groups because they occur during any time during the school day that is available. Groups should run a consistent schedule every week so that any one student can be added at any time. Once the CICO coordinator recommends a student for SAIG groups, the student is automatically placed in the appropriate group. Students on SAIG still receive progress monitoring for their behavior outside of the group. Students can carry a DPR as with CICO, or teachers can complete a daily survey of the student’s progress toward their specific behavioral goal. A group of school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors created SAIG Curriculum for K-12th Grade Students that schools may use.

Behavior Assessment/Intervention Plan (BAIP)

The Tier 2 systems team identifies students who are not responding to CICO and SAIG before they enter into Tier 3 interventions and recommends that the student has a brief behavior assessment (BA) as part of the problem-solving process. This helps the team create an intervention plan (IP) to support the student in school. The most challenging behavior is targeted, and a plan on how to help support the student in that area is developed. Progress is typically monitored for 4-6 weeks before the team then revisits the plan to make adjustments as needed.

Desired Outcomes of a BAIP

  • Operationally defined problem behavior(s)
  • Identify routines in which the problem behavior is most and least  likely to occur
  • Define the triggers and setting events that predict when the problem behavior is most likely to occur
  • Define the one  consequence that contributes most to maintaining the problem behavior in that routine
  • Create a summary statement of findings

 BAIP Team

  • School has a standing team that meets whenever any student is in need of a BAIP (otherwise, the team does not meet regularly).
  • Standing BAIP team is likely a subset of the school's building intervention team.
  • Membership is the same for each student needing a BAIP, with the addition of the student's classroom teacher(s).

BAIP Steps

  1. The BIT reviews data in IC (CICO, individualized CICO, SAIG) and teacher referrals.
  2. The BIT identifies student(s) who may be in need of BAIP intervention.
  3. The BIT contacts teacher and plans any optional data collection.
  4. Teacher completes the Functional Assessment Checklist for Teachers and Staff.
  5. Standing BAIP team and teacher meet to complete the Competing Behavior Pathway and Intervention Plan.

A school should have one team that works on creating a BAIP for all students in need of a higher-tiered intervention. The team requests that the teacher complete a Teacher Interview on the student's behavior prior to the meeting. The team then holds a meeting with the teacher to complete the Behavior Pathway (explanation). The team looks at the problem behavior, the predictors in the environment, the function of the behavior, any possible replacement behaviors, and any changes to the environment needed to ensure the replacement behavior. These changes to the environment are then implemented, and the replacement behavior is monitored (using a modified DPR card). If a student does not respond to this intervention, Tier 3 interventions should be considered.

Best Practices

  • Share intervention and replacement behavior ideas with other staff members.
  • Take time to prep teachers about BAIP process prior to meeting.
  • Ask teachers to bring supporting data to meeting.
  • Develop a reliable system for informing parents.
  • Each idea within the BAIP is accepted or rejected by the teacher, with no judgment from the facilitator. Teachers have to know and feel that the interventions and replacement behavior are under their control and realistic to implement.

Progress Monitoring

The team can decide to continue to use a CICO DPR or develop an individualized DPR that includes the specific replacement behavior of the student. Team should create a BAIP intervention plan in Infinite Campus and update data weekly.

MPS Examples

Tier 3 Interventions

There are two types of Tier 3 behavioral interventions, either a complex Functional Behavior Assessment/Behavior Intervention Plan (FBA/BIP) and educational wraparound (wrap) for elementary schools, or Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education, and Work (RENEW) for middle and high schools. These interventions are very intense and individualized. The number of students receiving Tier 3 should represent no more than one to five percent of the total student population. If there is more than five percent of the total student population receiving Tier 3 interventions, then a review of the fidelity of implementation of Tier 1 and Tier 2 systems should take place.

Students may be identified for Tier 3 either by failure to respond to any of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 behavioral interventions and supports or may be referred to Tier 3 by a teacher, parent, or self. It is important to note that referrals to Tier 3 do not constitute automatic initiation of a Tier 3 intervention.

For each intervention, either FBA/BIP or wrap/RENEW, an individualized team specific to the student and the student’s needs is developed. This team may include the following individuals:

  • School psychologist
  • School social worker
  • Teachers
  • Administrator
  • Counselor
  • Additional staff who interact with student receiving the intervention, such as assistants
  • Community members (therapist, mentor, parole officer, etc.)
  • Parent(s)

The Tier 3 team uses progress monitoring data such as office discipline referrals (ODRs), daily progress report (DPR), out-of-school suspensions (OSS), in-school suspensions (ISS), direct observation data, and student attendance. The progress monitoring data will be entered into Infinite Campus daily and reviewed weekly to ensure the effectiveness of the intervention.

The Tier 3 team also is responsible for checking the fidelity of implementation of the Tier 3 system. After the Tier 3 team is trained on the PBIS self-assessment tools, the overall fidelity of implementation of the Tier 3 system is monitored through the Benchmarks for Advanced Tiers (BAT). All fidelity-of-implementation tools are available through the PBIS assessment website and are used by schools and school districts across the nation.

Functional Behavior Assessment/Behavior Intervention Plan (FBA/BIP)

The FBA/BIP is a process for identifying (a) observable problem behaviors, (b) the contexts or routines where the problem behaviors are most likely, (c) the specific antecedent events within a context or routine that reliably predict occurrence of problem behaviors, and (d) the consequences that appear to maintain the problem behavior.


The FBA process should result in one or more summary statements that define the following:

~The context/routines where problem behavior is most and least likely

~Observational descriptions of problem behavior

~Specific events that predict occurrence of problem behavior

~Consequences that reinforce (maintain) problem behavior


A BIP defines how an educational setting will be adjusted to improve the behavioral success of the students:

~Describes how the physical environment will be changed to prevent occurrences of problem behavior

~Describes the teaching that will occur to give the student alternative ways of behaving

~Describes the positive and negative consequences that will be provided to (a) encourage positive behavior, (b) limit inadvertent reward of problem behavior, and (c) where appropriate, discourage problem behavior


A summary is created with the following:

Prevention strategies: Descriptions of how the context will be changed to prevent or minimize problem behavior

Teaching strategies: Instructional objectives to build skills so the student has alternatives to problem behaviors

Consequence strategies: Strategies for preventing inadvertent reward of problem behavior, for increasing reinforcement of desired behaviors, and strategies to discourage problem behavior

Safety strategies: Procedures for responding safely and effectively when extreme problem behaviors occur

Monitoring strategies: Procedures for ongoing assessment if (a) the BIP is being implemented correctly and (b) implementation is resulting in benefits for the student

More resources can be found on our MPS FBA/BIP webpage.

Educational Wraparound

The educational wraparound process is based on individualized, need-driven planning and services. It is not a program or a type of service. It is a value base and an unconditional commitment to working with students on a “one student at a time” basis to support normalized and inclusive options for students with complex needs. This includes

~an individualized plan developed by a child-and-family team,

~unconditional care,

~comprehensive planning and services, and

~outcome measures that are identified and measured often, and these outcomes are generated by parent and teacher expectations.


Features of Wraparound

  1. One integrated plan addresses needs for the student beyond the school day.

  2. The school-based portion of the wraparound plan takes planning beyond where the student will attend school or in what program he/she will be placed.

  3. At least some critical members of the team must resemble the family in terms of such demographic variables as economic circumstances, family composition, and neighborhood.

  4. The plan is driven by needs rather than by the programs that are currently available.

  5. The team assumes responsibility for changing the plan to make it work for the student, rather than concluding that the student “isn’t able to succeed.”

  6. Interventions build on strengths that exist in the student, teacher, and family.

  7. Expectations for students are based on those for typical students in the target student’s ecological setting.

  8. Services may reflect a blend of traditional and nontraditional programs and resources.

  9. Teams have the capacity to create unique individualized supports and activities.

  10. Wraparound planning is evaluated on the basis of significant but accountable outcome measures.

  11. It is flexibly delivered in terms of time, quantity, and approach.

More resources are available on our MPS Educational Wraparound web page.

RENEW is a structured school-to-career transition planning and individualized wraparound process for youth with emotional and behavioral challenges. Developed in 1996 by staff at the Institute on Disability (IOD), RENEW is being provided to youth by schools, community mental health centers, community-based providers, and IOD staff members. The model focuses on supporting each young person to design and pursue a plan for the transition from school to adult life. RENEW has substantially increased the high school completion, employment, and postsecondary education participation rates among our most vulnerable youth.

More information is available on our MPS RENEW web page.

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