How to implement MTSS and Culturally Responsive PBIS in your school to promote equity and reduce the opportunity gap

by | Oct 1, 2019 | Equity and Excellence, Hiring and Retention, Instructional Strategies, School Improvement, Students At Risk

Last week, we took a look at the research supporting the use of Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as methods for promoting equity and reducing the achievement gap in schools. This week, we want to provide you with some action steps to implement MTSS and Culturally Responsive PBIS practices at your school.

How can your school implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework?

The Equity Alliance has identified five steps for your school to complete when implementing a Culturally Responsive PBIS framework:

1. Form Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions (CRPBIS) Learning Labs

Learning Labs should involve all stakeholders which impact (and are impacted by) the school environment. These stakeholders may include:

  • Students and parents/guardians 
  • Teachers and school leaders
  • Skilled behavior interventionists
  • Local elected officials and government representatives
  • Community leaders and activists
  • Related businesses and nonprofit organizations

It’s important to remember the overall purpose of these exercises is to promote equity in the school environment. For this reason, your school needs to ensure Learning Labs involve participants which have historically been disproportionately and adversely affected by national and local systems. Here are just a few examples of populations which may need to be well represented in your Learning Labs:

  • African American students — In the 2013-2014 school year, the Government Accountability Office reported  black students were overrepresented in school suspensions by 23%. (In other words, the proportion of suspended students who were black was 23 percentage points higher than the overall proportion of students who were black.)
  • LGBTQ+ students — In 2018, the Human Rights Campaign and University of Connecticut reported 74% of students identifying as LGBTQ+ felt unsafe at school.
  • Muslim students — In 2017, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding reported 42% of Muslim students were bullied at school; more than twice as many Protestant students who experienced bullying.
  • English Language Learners (ELLs) — As of 2017,  only 63% of ELLs graduated high school, compared with the national average of 82%.

Learning Lab groups should work to develop disciplinary systems which benefit all students, recognizing the need to continuously evaluate, reflect upon, and revise these systems over time.

2. Determine Desired Outcomes of CRPBIS

If your school successfully promoted equity, academic excellence, and positive outcomes for all students, how would that success look at the ground level? Your Learning Labs should define specific goals which would accompany equitable outcomes and the elimination of the opportunity gap.

For example, maybe your school recognizes the need for all teachers, school leaders, and students to show respect to one another. What would it look like for everyone’s background, perspectives, opinions, rights, and needs were respected? Your Learning Labs should identify specific desired outcomes related to the topic of respect, as well as other areas including:

  • Non-exclusionary discipline
  • Bullying
  • Disproportionate identification of special needs students
  • Amount of student-driven learning activities

3. Understand Cultural Mediation and Implement Culturally Responsive Practices

When your Learning Lab participants understand cultural mediation, this means they recognize how culture at the national and local levels impact student learning. Students continue to learn academic concepts, attitudes, assumptions, social and emotional behaviors even after they leave the classroom. Your Learning Labs should consider where and what students learn outside the school environment, and develop strategies for supporting continuous learning inside and outside the classroom.

4. Use Data for Continuous Improvement and Innovation

Your Learning Labs should gather and consider disaggregated data from a variety of data sources to identify patterns in equity and student achievement. Obtaining data from multiple reporting sources at the national, state, local, and school levels help provide a better informed picture of your school’s progress. Based on your findings, adjust your community and school systems to better support all students.

5. Approach Ongoing Systemic Transformation

There are underlying community systems which have disproportionately impacted various populations for many generations. The opportunity gap can only be closed when the broader community continues to promote equitable practices through culturally responsive and integrated planning groups.

Why is it important to implement a school-wide approach to behavior?

There are several key reasons to implement CRPBIS as a school-wide practice:

  • Students, teachers, and school leaders enjoy a consistent, collaborative environment. Students will know and understand that behavioral expectations are consistent throughout the school, and teachers and school leaders will feel like they are working together in a coordinated effort to improve student behaviors and outcomes.
  • Goals are clearly defined and mutually agreed upon. Teachers and school leaders all understand the outcomes they are working to achieve in their school environment.
  • Data can be accurately tracked to measure improvements. When teachers and school leaders work toward common goals, they can all track the same data about routines, policies, student behaviors, and disciplinary actions.
  • Research has shown consistent, school-wide practices create more sustainable outcomes than one-time, isolated trainings.

Why is it important to slowly implement Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)/Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)?

In 2016, Prevention Sciencepublished a study comparing over 5,300 schools across 37 states which had attempted to implement the PBIS framework. The study focused on the first five years after each school attempted to implement PBIS, finding that 58% of the schools abandoned the framework in the first 3 years of implementation.

The researchers remind readers that implementing a new system successfully typically takes 3-5 years, and the second year of implementation can often move faster than the first.

How can you find help implementing Multi-tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at your school?

The Center for Student Achievement Solutions can help your school promote equitable behavior and disciplinary practices to support all students in their journey toward positive outcomes. Schedule a free call with us to talk about the customized solutions which would best benefit your CRPBIS implementation.

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