MTSS and Culturally Responsive PBIS promotes equity and reduces the opportunity gap

by | Sep 3, 2019 | Equity and Excellence, School Improvement, Social Emotional, Students At Risk, Teacher Professional Development

Growing evidence supports Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as practical evidence-based approaches to promote equitable outcomes for your students to reduce opportunity gaps. Educational leaders are responsible for ensuring that teachers are trained about creating classroom environments that address the academic and behavioral needs of all students to prevent some of them from falling through the cracks.

How does a Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)/Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to behavior benefit students, parents, and teachers?

Parents, teachers, and other community members may be aware that discipline is applied unevenly across racial and ethnic lines, but many lack knowledge about practical strategies schools can use to reduce disproportional discipline methods. The MTSS and PBIS approaches allow teachers to incorporate equitable practices.

The MTSS and Culturally Responsive PBIS approaches have been tested and studied extensively in urban, suburban, rural, and charter school environments, showing evidence of positive outcomes including:

  • Improved social and emotional skills
  • Better classroom engagement — One study found that students were 24% more engaged and on task in the classroom after PBIS training was provided and implemented.
  • Higher test scores and improved reading and math scores — A 2005 study found schools with PBIS noticed reading scores improved by 25% and math scores improved by 18% on standardized tests.
  • Less office discipline referrals and school suspensions — A 2001 study found schools which had implemented PBIS recognized a 69% decrease in office discipline referrals and a 62% reduction in-school suspensions. 

When students are more engaged, discipline and suspensions decrease, and they perform better academically. Parents and students have peace of mind when they attend school environments that are inclusive, culturally responsive, safe, and orderly. Teachers are able to provide highly effective engaging classroom instructional strategies because they do not have to waste time disciplining students for misbehavior. Teachers also feel more supported by school leaders who provide job-embedded professional development, and coaching support focused on the core components of MTSS and PBIS implementation.

What does the research say about Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), Culturally Responsive Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and a problem-solving approach?

Research on the PBIS framework reveals five areas where schools can improve academic and proactive and positive behavioral expectations to reduce the achievement gap and disproportionate discipline referrals:

1. Instruction must become more engaging.

Instead of teaching concepts in isolation or as big ideas, teachers create lesson plans that are connected to students’ real lives and incorporate activities which allow students to become immersed in the historical traditions of their heritage. Also, lesson plans should include plenty of opportunities for student and teacher feedback. These strategies make the curriculum more engaging, relatable, and interesting for students.

2. The school’s approach to student behavior must become more equitable.

The OSEP Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports says an equitable behavior framework is characterized by the following traits:

  • Preventative — Behavioral expectations are clearly laid out for students, so they have guidelines for self-regulation. Positive, engaging school routines and instructional practices leave less opportunity and motivation for misbehavior.
  • Multi-tiered — Student behavior is addressed in a variety of ways, and disciplinary action builds through a well-defined system.
  • Culturally responsive — Educators are supported as they learn to address institutional bias, and behavioral expectations are developed in community with students and families.

3. School leaders must use disaggregated data about discipline to inform practices.

When collecting data on student discipline, schools must track specific disciplinary infractions and identify the race of students to address any inequities that may exist within your system. Simply measuring the number of disciplinary infractions throughout a school year is not enough, because this doesn’t allow for comparison between the number and types of disciplinary infractions taking into consideration students of different racial identities.

4. Educators must be held accountable for disciplinary equity.

When racial bias, exclusionary discipline measures, and other inequitable practices occur, school leaders must step in immediately to promote systems that address the behavioral needs of all students. 

5. Educators must practice new discipline routines.

The OSEP Center has found that disproportionate discipline often occurs more frequently at specific points in a school’s daily routine. For example, inequitable disciplinary infractions may occur more often in a specific location, at a specific time of day, or when a specific type of behavior occurs. Educators need to identify and modify these parts of their regular routine to decrease the rate of disproportionate discipline.

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

Next week, we’ll share practical advice about how to implement MTSS and Culturally Responsive PBIS approach schoolwide to address the needs of all students.  We also provide customized consulting options for your school to build a school leadership strategy to support and implement equitable practices. Schedule a free consultation call with us now to learn how we can partner with your school leaders to create transformational change.

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