High school students are at a crossroads in life – they stand at the threshold between childhood and adulthood. From the moment they enter high school as a freshman to the day they graduate as a senior, these students create a special series of challenges for educators.
Helping to guide these rapidly-changing individuals toward young adulthood is a daunting task, but one that most secondary educators relish. School staff members are always seeking ways to develop relationships with their students and improve school climate. At the secondary level, does it make sense to utilize PBIS in high school?
Implementing PBIS in High School
Let’s begin with the assertion that it is possible to successfully implement schoolwide PBIS at the high school level. However, the biggest challenge that most high schools face is their sheer size. Unlike most elementary and middle schools, high schools can be a multi-building campus or a large, single multi-story building. Because school systems typically funnel students from smaller schools into a single high school, there are more students. This also requires a larger school staff. Coordinating a PBIS initiative in such a context will rely heavily on the organizational culture of the school. The leadership shown by administration strongly influences both student and staff behavior schoolwide. Both school size and organizational culture will affect implementation, so you must plan carefully.
Staff and Student Buy-In
While staff buy-in for a PBIS initiative is critical, don’t forget input and buy-in from students. At the high school level, these maturing young adults want greater input into the decisions that affect them. While you can communicate the values, expectations, attitudes, and beliefs that are part of your school culture, involving students in your PBIS initiative will improve buy-in all around.
Many of the best school stores take an often-overlooked important first step – ASK YOUR STUDENTS! With the ultimate goal of involvement, running a quick survey or communicating with a representative group will give you so many great pbis high school incentive ideas. Just ask them!
At the elementary and middle school levels, it’s largely understood that PBIS requires a continued commitment and patience with the evolution of the process. The same is true of PBIS at the high school level. Schoolwide PBIS, if it is to be sustainable, is a formal, phased and continuous multiyear professional development endeavor. You cannot implement it through intermittent, passive, staff development in-service events. The concept of 3-5 years of focused and diligent effort should be a minimal expectation. Simply asking staff to adopt a new practice is ineffective, and system supports, like coaching, active administrator support, team-based implementation and decision making are important considerations for fidelity and sustained use.
Collecting Specific Data
High schools are different from elementary and middle schools because of their emphasis on postsecondary outcomes, dropout prevention, diploma achievement, career planning, and so on. Recognition of positive behaviors takes on new meaning in this setting. Quite literally, we are preparing young adults to take their place in the world.
Using PBIS at the high school level requires different criteria for data collection than those used in lower grades. For high schools, this data can include credit accrual, office discipline referrals, in-school detention, out-of-school suspensions, absenteeism, tardiness, truancy, failed courses, and substance use among other issues often unique to upper-grade levels. What does not change, however, is the need for regular and frequent data review.
Collecting and interpreting data within the context of the student population will help administrators to fine-tune the PBIS initiative in a way that best serves students, staff, and the overall school climate.
PBIS Success at the High School Level
No matter the age group, PBIS can profoundly change school climate. At the high school level, an improved school climate better prepares students for life after high school. Committing to a 3-5-year process might feel ambitious with students you only have for four years, but each success through PBIS lays the foundation for the future.
Although adolescence and young adulthood pose their own distinct challenges, the research holds true in the high school environment. With a concerted, data-driven, and inclusive dedicated effort, PBIS can have a significant impact on behavioral, social and academic outcomes for students, as well as for school safety and culture.