Initiating, expanding, and sustaining PBIS at the school level requires systemic support from the district. Organizing across multiple schools improves efficiency in resources, implementation efforts, and organizational management. PBIS at the district level provides a supportive context for implementation at the local level.
In our work with schools, districts, and states, there are a number of lessons learned that have shaped our recommendations for evaluations. Although each evaluation has its own nuances, here are some common themes that can guide teams.
Creating an evaluation plan without considering the report’s audience and who needs what information decreases the likelihood that it will be effective in improving implementation or sustaining the initiative.
“Do Less Better”
A plan that effectively answers fewer questions is far superior to a plan than ineffectively answers more questions. This blueprint provides a wider range of options for questions, measures, and reporting that most evaluations will cover. It is important to be judicious, especially in the organization’s first evaluation plan. Consider adding additional questions only when the context demands it and the team has built experience and capacity for more work.
Utilize Existing Data When Feasible
All else being equal, it is preferential to answer questions with data that already exist than collecting new data. Adding measures to a school system should be done with caution, given that the addition of each measure typically requires added effort and cost. However, it is often necessary to collect some new data to answer questions that are important to stakeholders. The desired balance is to select only the additional measures that are needed to answer the core questions.
Evaluate Effectiveness Only When Implemented with Fidelity
Evaluation plans should examine student outcomes only when PBIS has been implemented to criterion. It is important to identify first whether training and technical assistance resulted in improved behavior support practices in schools (as measured by increased scores on fidelity measures). An important next question is whether those schools that implemented to criterion saw improved student outcomes. If schools did not implement PBIS, we do not expect to see changes in student outcomes.
Use Evaluation Plans for Continuous Improvement, not to Punish
Many educators are used to evaluations that identify deficiencies, whether in schools or individual teachers. In contrast, evaluations are most effective when they identify what the organization can do to improve its support for districts, schools, and educators. We use the evaluation process to promote continuous improvement through regular cycles of data review and iterative action planning that builds on program strengths while addressing areas of need. This approach to using evaluation data focuses on identifying the conditions necessary to improve outcomes and supports needed to improve these conditions.
Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (September, 2020). Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Evaluation Blueprint. University of Oregon. www.pbis.org.