Skip to Main Content

Is PBIS an equitable framework?

Yes. “The fundamental purpose of PBIS is to make schools more effective and equitable learning environments,” Rob Horner, OSEP Technical Assistance Center for PBIS. While PBIS has always been concerned about equity, there has been a renewed focus on ensuring that equity be at the center of all PBIS work. PBIS is not fully implemented until it is culturally responsive. The BEST/VTPBIS State Team is currently in the process of engaging in ongoing equity work. You can find our Commitment to Equity here. We have also worked to compile resources on equity that can be found here. You will find resources on: educational equity; getting started; equity in a tiered framework; resources to help you understand and address the five foundation elements of equity in PBIS; taking action; additional resources and references.

Is PBIS just a reward system?

No. PBIS is an evidence-based Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework that includes systems, data, and practices that lead to positive and equitable social and academic student outcomes. This includes identifying, teaching, and practicing positive behavioral expectations in schools. One component of PBIS is a system of encouraging expected behaviors, which includes developing a school-wide acknowledgement system that helps the adults in the building notice students’ expected behaviors (after teaching what those expected behaviors are), and helps shifts the focus from punitive to positive. The most important part of the acknowledgement system is the positive, specific verbal praise that lets students know what they’re doing right, so they can repeat that behavior in the future. The acknowledgement system is just one piece of the PBIS that helps create a proactive, positive, and welcoming school climate. For more information, see:

Can PBIS be implemented in middle/high school?

Yes! We have middle and high schools in Vermont who have been trained in and implement PBIS. There are also hundreds of middle and high schools across the country that are implementing. The PBIS framework is intended to be adaptable to meet the context and culture of each school building. Youth voice and participation in the PBIS Leadership Team is crucial for success at the middle and high school levels. For more information, see:

Can a school be required to implement PBIS?

No. It is very important for each school to educate their entire staff about what PBIS is (and isn’t), and then have a vote that achieves at least 80% buy-in before moving forward with training. PBIS is not mandated by the state, but the state does require that each school develop and maintain a tiered system of academic and behavioral supports. Whether or not a school utilizes PBIS, they should be poised to implement MTSS for social, emotional, behavioral learning and wellness. PBIS is the most common framework for that and has lots of research supporting its effectiveness.

Are other programs/initiatives compatible with PBIS?

Yes! The PBIS framework can be used to support implementation and alignment of approaches like Restorative Approaches, Responsive Classroom, SEL (more info here on SEL), etc. The framework helps schools determine what systems, data, and practices are necessary for sustainability of all SEL-related programs. For more information, see this alignment brief.