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Tertiary-tier PBIS in alternative, residential and correctional school settings: considering intensity in the delivery of evidence-based practice.

Positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based multi-tiered system for addressing discipline problems in schools (e.g., Bradshaw, Mitchell, & Leaf, 2010; Horner et al., 2009; Sugai & Horner, 2006). The first two tiers of PBIS are focused on school-/facility-wide and small group interventions, the third tier is concerned with individualized assessment and intervention, typically involving functional behavior assessment and team-based function-based intervention (Sugai et al., 2000). While the research on effective PBIS across tiers is well-established, the bulk of that research is with typical schools, at the elementary age level, and focused at the tier I (e.g., Sailor, Stowe, Turnbull, Klienhammer, & Tramill, 2007; Simonsen, Sugai, & Negron, 2008). Less attention has been paid to how settings such as alternative, residential, and correctional schools/facilities may necessitate alterations in systems, practices, and procedures--especially as they relate to individual student interventions.

These alternative education (AE) settings are most unique by nature of their population; they are made up exclusively of children and youth who in the typical environment would be considered to be the most challenging and identified as requiring the highest level of intervention. However, evidence shows that the breakdown of students identified in each of the tiers does not significantly differ across different settings (Nelson, Sprague, & Martin, 2007). That is, the majority of students in both typical schools and AE settings are largely successful with the expectations (Nelson et al., 2007). Of course, the complexity of structure and coordination among systems is necessarily much greater in settings with more challenging populations. By that same token, while functional behavior assessment and function-based intervention planning (FBP) are characteristic of intervention at tier III (Sugai et al., 2000), the simplified FBP procedures commonly presented in the literature (e.g., Loman & Borgmeier, 2010; Scott, Anderson, & Spaulding, 2008; Scott & Kamps, 2007) will likely be insufficient in AE settings. That is, the complexity of structure and practice related to FBP will necessarily be greater in settings where student misbehavior is likely to be more serious in terms of both topography and intensity (Turton, 2009).

This paper presents considerations for implementing effective tier III interventions in AE settings. Consideration of the necessary and sufficient systems and procedures requires first an analysis of the unique features commonly associated with these settings.

Unique Features of Alternative, Residential, and Correctional School Settings

AE settings present various characteristics such as a focus on punitive consequences (NAACP, 2005) that are not conducive to the academic and social/behavioral success of students--especially those with disabilities. In particular, characteristics such as a focus on instruction with intervention and an established collaboration structure that allow for the effective implementation of PBIS in typical school settings may be lacking across the range of AE settings (NAACP, 2005). This is especially concerning considering that estimates indicate that 50 to 80% of the students in these settings have learning disabilities (Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirer, 2005), compared to a 4.2% prevalence among the general student population in typical school settings (Friend & Bursuck, 2012).

In addition to a range of disabilities, students removed from typical school settings are more likely to have been victims of abuse and have intensive mental health needs. It is estimated that between 40 and 73% of girls in the juvenile corrections system have been physically abused, compared with 26% in the general population (Girls, Inc., 2002). In fact, past studies of youth in the juvenile justice system have estimated the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder at 41%, a history of child abuse at between 25-31%, and anxiety disorders at between 6 and 41% (Nelson, Rutherford, & Wolford, 1996). Given the fact that rates of school exclusion have roughly doubled since the 1970s (Cregor & Hewitt, 2011) it is likely that rates of mental health disorders among youth in AE settings will continue to represent a major obstacle to positive outcomes in the absence of increased treatment intensity.

Despite the more intense needs in AE settings, personnel in these settings often lack training in areas related to individualized intervention from an instructional perspective. In a needs assessment focusing on personnel needs in correctional settings Kvarfordt, Purcell, and Shannon (2005) reported that less than two thirds of personnel working with incarcerated youth reported having received any training in how to work with persons with disabilities. Personnel in the assessment also expressed a distinct lack of confidence in their abilities with regard to understanding when and how learning disabilities affect students' academic performance and overall social behavior. Moreover, AE settings are staffed by a wide range of personnel from a variety of disciplines and often with conflicting views on intervention and treatment (Nelson, Sugai, & Smith, 2005). In fact, even basic communications between differing shifts and among varied personnel roles has been noted to be problematic (Houchins, Jolivette, Wessendorf, McGlynn, & Nelson, 2005). Much of the issue regarding conflicting views on discipline is evident in the pervasive reliance on punitive and reactive strategies despite the evidence in favor of more proactive and educational approaches (e.g., Bradshaw, Mitchell, & Leaf, 2010). In AE settings the range of perspectives among stakeholders, lack of training, and absence of reliance on data for decision-making present challenges for effective intervention.

The unique challenges presented within AE settings necessitate unique support structures. However, the systems that are widely identified as evidence-based in working with challenging behaviors are not different for this population. In other words, what is unique about AE settings is not the process, it is the intensity with which systemic structures support effective teaming, intervention, and evaluation. In this context, intensity refers to the vigor or effort required for implementation with fidelity, although at tier III intensity may also connote the degree to which intervention is complex and the degree to which fidelity and collaboration are necessary.

Considerations at Tier III: Big Ideas

In terms of practice in dealing with challenging behaviors, functional behavior assessment (FBA) and the resulting function-based intervention plan (FBP) represent the hallmark strategy for both assessment and intervention (e.g., Newcomer & Lewis, 2004; Turton, Umbriet, Liaupsin, & Bartley, 2007). Having first appeared in federal law in 1997 and more recently reauthorized in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004), FBA is a mandated strategy in response to challenging behavior from students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD). According to Drasgow and Yell (2001), FBA as outlined in IDEIA was intended to be part of the process for addressing problems demonstrated by students with behavioral disorders (i.e., when behavior interferes with their own or others' learning). Considering populations that include incarcerated youth, the use of FBA in AE settings, is a worthy target for mandating additional efforts as students with E/BD have been widely documented as having the least favorable outcomes of any group of individuals with disabilities (Kauffman & Landrum, 2009).

Effective interventions in AE settings share common features with tier III interventions in all other settings, albeit with necessarily more intensity. What may be sufficient to predict success across all students in typical schools likely is appreciably different from what is required when working with students in AE settings (Nelson, Rutherford, & Wolford, 1996; Nelson, Sprague, Jolivette, Smith, & Tobin, 2009). Unique considerations are required to provide sufficient support for function-based intervention and the full range of evidence-based instructional practices in these settings. While other papers in this special issue focus more exclusively on the key features of effective PBIS systems at tiers I and II, the discussion of tier III begins here with an overview of the necessary considerations for implementing effective tier III systems in AE settings. Table 1 presents a summary of the considerations associated with both tier III systems features and the specific steps associated with FBP.
Table 1 Considerations for Effective Use of Function-Based
Intervention Planning (FBP) in Alternative, Residential,
and Correctional Settings

Considerations           Tier III          Tier III Adaptations

Teaming              * Are essential    * Tier III teams include
Collaboration        stakeholders       larger scope of membership
Evaluation           involved?          in anticipation of more

                     * Are essential    * intense needs and
                     experts involved?  likelihood of wraparound

                     * Is one person    * Assign team leader
                     fluent with FBP?   fluent with FBP and use a
                                        structured agenda

                     * Who will run     * Increased training
                     the meeting?       across a range of

                     * What training    * Wider range of
                     will be            individuals to train in
                     necessary?         collection of data and to
                                        determine minimum criteria
                                        for success

                     * What are
                     criteria for

FBP Step 1 Define    * Which referrals  * Prioritize referrals by
problem              have highest       need

                     * Is problem       * Increase observations
                     defined by         across wider range of
                     context?           settings/contexts

                     * Do we have all   * Increase record keeping
                     available info?    precision (infrequent-high
                                        intensity behavior)

FBP Step 2           * Do we have info  * Consider possibility of
Determine function   re: previous FBP?  multiple and dual

                     * Can we test      * Develop simple tests to
                     team hypotheses?   verify hypotheses (e.g.,
                                        brief functional

FBP Step 3 Teach     * What             * Consider replacement
replacement          replacement is     behavior relevance given
                     most relevant?     student's age/context

                     * How will we      * Prepare for direct
                     develop            instruction of basic
                     instruction?       behaviors (explicit and

                     * Do staff have    * Staff training in
                     instructional      effective instructional
                     skills?            strategies (academic and

FBP Step 4           * How can adults   * Prepare more precise and
Facilitate success   facilitate         consistent routines and
                     success?           physical arrangements

                     * Can natural      * Prepare for objections
                     reinforcers be     to praise and
                     applied?           reinforcement--train staff
                                        to deliver consistently

                     * Is response to   * Discuss functionality of
                     failure            consequences and monitor
                     functional?        adult fidelity

FBP Step 5 Evaluate  * Are we           * Individual data
progress             monitoring in all  collected across a broader
                     contexts?          range of settings and
                                        staff (including 24/7
                                        system features)

                     * Is there a plan  * Detailed monitoring
                     for data           plan--who, how, when,
                     collection?        where

                     * What are the     * Develop consensus as to
                     criteria for       a measureable criteria for
                     success?           success

                     * Are data
                     accessible to
                     team members?


In AE settings it is essential that individualized tier III teams include a larger array of stakeholders given the complexity of learning disabilities, histories of abuse, and mental health needs often presenting with these students, representing the typically larger body of personnel working with these students. This expansion represents the type of increased intensity and complexity necessary for this more challenging population. Such teams are commonly referred to as Student Response Teams, Individual Support Teams, or Behavior Intervention Planning Teams. The charge of such teams is to determine the extent and nature of the problem and to then make decisions regarding future programming in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Typical membership would include persons who can recommend the most expeditiously effective course of action (Conroy, Clark, Gable, & Fox, 1999; Lewis & Sugai, 1999). In AE settings, this generally involves teachers, instructional assistants, administrators, parents/guardians, and medical staff; a team which is representative of all aspects of the facility in which behavioral change is sought. Often, these teams begin smaller and add additional members with particular expertise only as interventions are deemed to be unsuccessful. That is, a failed plan warrants a more intensive team to develop a more intensive plan. In its most intensive form in any setting, tier III intervention involves wraparound planning that involves all facets of the student's life including family, friends, and range of persons with relevant expertise (Eber, Smith, Sugai, & Scott, 2002). While a full blown wraparound planning team is neither realistic nor warranted for all students identified at tier III in AE settings, it is logical to consider an increased intensity of tier III teams earlier than what might be typical in school settings.

The larger scope of team membership in AE settings is warranted because (1) these students' needs are typically more complex and (2) these settings typically have a broader range of personnel and expertise involved. Still, each team should be developed individually to include those persons whose knowledge of the student and issues is deemed relevant and practical in light of the available data. For example, if existing data suggest difficulty with fighting and anger then mental health, security officers, or psychological services personnel may be appropriate to invite. Similarly, if impulsiveness and attention are key concerns then a medical professional may be appropriate to provide assessment and suggestions with regard to the possibility of an additional mental health diagnosis. Thus, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech/language specialists, mental health professionals, central office staff, and other relevant personnel may be involved as indicated by existing information.

Collaborative Intervention Planning

Because the charge of the tier III team is to use assessment data to create FBPs, the team leader must be and hopefully some members are fluent with FBA and FBP. While it would be optimal if all team members were fluent in behavior analysis techniques, it is unlikely and unnecessary. The leader's job is to facilitate the team's efforts to collect the relevant data, discuss issues related to context, determine the most logical next course of action, and assign tasks. In addition to a designated leader, effective teams meet regularly, have an agenda, set measurable goals, make decisions based on data, and share tasks across membership (Chandler, Dahlquist, Repp, & Feltz, 1999). Leadership is important to ensure both the efficiency of planning within a large team and to ensure fidelity within the assessment and intervention process. While these points may be viewed as best practice in the confines of a typical school, they likely are more like essential features given the need for increased intensity in AE settings.

A major component of collaboration is the degree to which team members agree to and understand function as a concept for intervention and have the necessary skills and intent to implement effective FBP. The key to success with any FBP is often in the degree to which there is fidelity with the intervention (Horner et al., 2009). The team leader must facilitate a discussion of the intervention among stakeholders to (a) determine where and what training will be necessary for the implementers and (b) develop a plan for monitoring the fidelity of implementation across all involved. While this is not different from what is important with any tier III process, the more intense behaviors of students in these settings will require that training be both implemented across a wider range of persons and be more individualized to meet the uniquely intense behaviors.

Monitoring and Evaluation

PBIS is defined, in part, by its adherence to data-based decision making. Those decisions that show positive improvements are continued while those that do not are replaced. In typical settings individualized interventions are monitored by a single teacher or a small number of persons involved with the case. In AE settings, the intensity of the student population predicts that problems are likely to occur across a larger range of settings and contexts. Thus, monitoring and data collection training and facilitation becomes more complex as data must be reliably collected across a wide range of personnel and sometimes within 24/7 contexts. Because decisions based on data are only as valid as the data being used, a first major issue for considering individual student monitoring is the degree to which personnel are willing and able to collect the necessary data to evaluate individual student interventions; a documented problem within AE settings (Jolivette & Nelson, 2010). Facilitation of consistent monitoring across a range of personnel requires more intense training across adults in the environment.

The key data-based decision at this level involves the development of individualized goals for students identified as needing tier III intervention. The question is, at any given point in time, what level of student performance is minimally indicative of success? Data-based decision making for individual students requires that team members agree upon both the nature of the data to be collected (i.e., what and how) and the targeted goals (i.e., criteria) against which success will be judged. The merit of intervention is best judged by measurable changes in student behavior. That is, regardless of how well the intervention was received or implemented, if student behavior does not improve to the degree deemed sufficient by the team, the intervention cannot be considered a success. The team's role is first to determine the level of success necessary to alleviate the problem and then to measure the current level of performance to determine a reasonable timeline for success. Because success or failure is determined by the student's performance, success should represent the minimal level of performance necessary to maintain sufficient progress toward the ultimate behavior goal (Kerr & Nelson, 2009). For example, a team may determine that success for a student would be to halve the number of behavior occurrences or to prevent the youth from engaging in more serious behavioral incidents (e.g., youth-on-youth assaults). Whether the team sets this as a goal to be achieved by tomorrow as opposed to a month or year from now depends upon the student's current level of performance and what the team deems a realistic goal. Clearly, the complexities, intensity of problems, and array of personnel associated with AE settings create challenges for data-based decision making. Just as most personnel in these settings are not trained to teach, most are not trained to collect individual student data; a task which is all the more difficult given the intensity of behavior. Further, decisions as to the minimum criteria for success will be subject to a wide range of perspectives, many of which may believe that anything less than perfection deserves a punitive response. These challenges require intensified training and support not only for potential team members but for all persons working in the facility.

Function-Based Support: Features of Intensified Practice

FBA has been defined as a systematic method of "generating information on the events preceding and following behavior in an attempt to determine which antecedents and consequences are reliably associated with the occurrence of the behavior" (Miltenberger, 1997, p. 563). In simplest terms, FBA assesses the relationship between a behavior and the surrounding environment to create effective intervention plans. The increased likelihood of problem behavior and complexity of environment in AE settings evince a need for increased intensity in the way in which FBA is implemented. Because it produces no numerical score or other measures for comparison or ranking, the only purpose of FBA is to develop an intervention that fits the student's functional needs in the context of the setting in which it is to be implemented.

Although FBA is widely accepted as an evidence-based practice, there has been a consistent argument that this evidence comes mainly from research with students in self-contained classrooms with externalizing behaviors, and implemented by researchers rather than teachers (Scott et al., 2004). To the extent this is true, there is some question as to the processes considerations necessary for effective implementation in AE settings. This consideration represents the type of system-wide intensity that must be considered in moving to AE settings. Inherent across all steps are the larger concepts of intensified systemic structures and data-based decision making. The degree of effort, number involved and roles of individuals, and the time invested in these processes are critical issues when considering effective individualized intervention at tier III.

FBA leading to an FBP is a team-based process, involving a range of persons who are familiar with the student and those with expertise in critical areas identified as relevant to the student's needs and fidelity of implementation. The following presents the key steps associated with the FBA and FBP process, with special attention given to the intensity required for effective use in AE settings.

Step 1: Define the Problem and Context

The first step in the process of developing a FBP requires more than a simple definition of behavior. The first consideration is with the nature of the behavior of concern to prepare a comprehensive assessment and intervention plan. As tier III teams are individualized to students, it may be helpful to know something about student behavior prior to finalizing team composition. For this reason it may be helpful to categorize behaviors according to nature or complexity. For example, typical settings may choose to refer to behaviors characterized by off-task and attention deficits as Level 1; behaviors characterized by disruption, disrespect, and non-compliance as Level 2; and behaviors characterized by dangerous or illegal activity as Level 3; whereas in AE settings, Level 1 may include passive or active refusal to participate in programming and bullying; Level 2 may include possession and/or use of contraband and verbal threats; Level 3 may include youth-on-youth assaults, youth-on-staff assaults, and self-harm. Such categorization can help determine the need to involve other persons within and outside the agency in addition to those familiar with the student's daily behavior.

The second consideration at this initial step is to define the exact nature of the behaviors that are of concern. This includes consideration of what the behaviors are, when/where they occur (location, time of day, day of week, shift), when/where they do not occur, with whom they occur, and any other pertinent information that will help to provide an adequate understanding and perspective of the behavior. This task is carried out by the full team based on their experiences with the student, discipline/incident reports, disciplinary findings, and any other available data. The initial task is simply to establish a topographic definition of the behavior--what it is that the student is doing? Second, the team must identify predictable contexts and circumstances associated with the behavior of concern. Clearly, the more intense the behavior (e.g., Level 3), the larger the depth and breadth of information will need to be. Due to this, a single data dashboard with all relevant information related to youth behavior should be available to all team members at any point in time (Jolivette & Nelson, 2010).

The product of this step is a clear statement of the predictable context, a topographically defined behavior, and an index of the degree to which the behavior is a problem. This can be summarized as a statement: under X conditions, student tends to engage in Y behavior to this degree. Conditions include academic subject matter, specific programming activities, events, the presence or absence of other persons, or any other observable environmental condition. For example, when asked to answer a question in class, Aaron will curse at the teacher loudly enough to disrupt the entire class. This describes both the student's behavior and the observed predictor. Typically, discussions among those who have had repeated exposure to student misbehavior are able to develop simple statements regarding the predictability of student behavior. However, more complex cases may require additional direct observations scheduled among team members and involving specialized assessments via invited experts. The degree to which the behavior is a problem can be described in terms of its duration, intensity, latency, or frequency. Of typical concern with more challenging students are infrequent but intense events--what Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) refer to as "behavioral earthquakes." For example, a student may be involved in a fight three or four times a year--but each instance is extreme in terms of physical violence and duration. The problem with such infrequent behaviors is that they generally are not observed often enough to warrant valid prediction. That is, all agree that the student fights but the behavior has occurred so infrequently that the team is unable to confidently identify a predictable context; however, intervention is still warranted.

Because such intense behaviors are more likely among youth in AE settings, intensified record keeping is imperative. For each instance of intense behavior, all involved adults should write a complete report detailing all that was observed and known. The parameters for how such reports are completed must be an agreed upon procedure within the more intensive components of tier I data collection in these settings and implemented with consistency across the AE setting and entire system (i.e., state agency, if applicable). Important information includes not only observations of the events surrounding the behavior but also more distal antecedents. For example, knowing that an intense event occurred on a day in which the student also had problems at breakfast, was late to class, or received a punitive consequences earlier in the day may be valuable in terms of predicting future behavior. Thus, reporting procedures need to include a greater intensity of detail regarding both the behavior and an array of environmental conditions, especially for 24/7 settings. In addition, it is important to note that FBP is not unique to social behavior and also can be applied in academic and vocational contexts (Filter & Horner, 2009).

Step 2: Determine the Function of Behavior

The second step of the FBP takes the information developed in the first step and adds information about predictable consequences of behavior. The result is a comprehensive statement: under X conditions, student tends to engage in Y behavior to this degree and Z tends to be the outcome. For example, team members have observed that the typical result of Aaron's loud cursing is initial attention from peers, quickly followed by the teacher asking everyone to ignore Aaron and eventually removing him from the class (this also is observed in non-class settings). While an initial hypothesis may be that Aaron's cursing functions to access peer attention, also it appears that cursing may function to help Aaron escape from the classroom. Whether the access or escape function is most accurate, or whether both functions operate equally is a question that the team must work to answer. Knowing the function of Aaron's behavior will be crucial in the formulation of a replacement behavior and development of both environmental and consequence manipulations as part of the intervention within the PBIS framework (O'Neill et al., 1997).

As has been discussed, students in AE settings are more likely to suffer from an array of historical abuses and mental health disorders. It is possible that these factors will complicate the identification of simple functional relationships. In addition, staff in these settings often approach behavior from a range of incompatible perspectives; increasing the complexity involved in developing a statement of function with which the team can be reasonably confident. That is, the more complex the individual, the history, and the background of the team, the more difficult it becomes to reach consensus on function. While experimental manipulations of the environment to verify function (e.g., functional analysis) has generally been abandoned as too onerous a task in typical school settings (Loman & Borgmeier, 2010; Scott et al., 2004), such increased intensity may be necessary to achieve reasonable consensus among the team in AE settings.

Step 3: Teach Replacement Behavior

Ideally, the team should attempt to replace undesirable behavior with an appropriate behavior that serves the same function (i.e., purpose) for the student. For example, if the team's agreed upon function for Aaron was access to peer attention, the replacement behavior should involve Aaron engaging in a more appropriate behavior that would result in peer attention. If the team's agreed upon function for Aaron was escape from the adult demands in the classroom or other environments, the replacement behavior should involve Aaron engaging in a more appropriate behavior that would allow him to escape at least part of an adult demand. If both functions are operating at one time the focus of the replacement behavior is the same but becomes much more complicated as it must allow Aaron to receive both appropriate peer attention and escape at least part of an adult demand. Clearly, behaviors that serve dual functions or multiple behaviors used to obtain the same function create a complexity warranting an increased intensity to be reasonably certain that the identified function is accurate. Also, because AE settings are defined by the delinquent nature of the students in attendance, selecting relevant replacement behaviors presents an additional challenge. What adults find appropriate (e.g., asking for help) may be punished by peers in the environment. Teams must work together to develop replacement behaviors that are functional for the student, appropriate for promoting success in the classroom, facility, and beyond, and acceptable within the unique culture and context of the AE setting.

Defining the parameters of an effectively functional and appropriate replacement behavior presents challenges due to the complexity of behaviors and functions often associated with students in these settings. However, teaching presents equally complex issues and considerations as, aside from the teachers, staff in AE settings are not trained to deliver instruction. This is even more relevant given the fact that students in these settings are very likely to present academic, cognitive, and social deficits that may play a major role in predicting problem behavior. The team's instructional planning must account for academics as an environmental variable related to behavior. Effective instruction of behavior, no matter the setting within the school or facility, requires that the teaching be direct and explicit, including modeling, guided practice, and consistent feedback (Hattie, 2009). Perhaps the first step in considering instruction of a replacement behavior is consideration of the degree to which staff across the environment will require training to provide the necessary level and content of instruction. The FBP is unlikely to be effective if instruction cannot be delivered with fidelity across staff and settings.

Step 4: Facilitate Student Success

Effective instruction is necessary but likely not sufficient to predict that the student will cease problem behavior in favor of the replacement behavior. The probability of success is related to both instruction and the degree to which the environment can be manipulated to both encourage and enforce appropriate behavior. As a first consideration, the replacement behavior must result in success from the initial trial and may be additionally reinforced externally by the universal PBIS reinforcement system. An attempt at replacement behavior by the student that results in failure (i.e., does not meet desired function) will not persist. Under these conditions the undesirable behavior, which historically has been very reliable in meeting those needs, will continue to occur. Thus, initial replacement behaviors must be simple, set up to occur in the natural environment by manipulating antecedents, and immediately reinforced when observed. Thus, the focus must be solely on facilitating successful demonstration of replacement behavior and providing immediate reinforcement--using reinforcers that are functionally equivalent to those that have been maintaining the challenging behavior and linked to universal PBIS.

Controlling the environment presents a challenge even to staff in typical educational settings (Park & Scott, 2008; Stichter & Sasso, 2005). When the environmental complexity increases in the ways associated with AE settings the challenges associated with manipulations to facilitate success become more complex and intense. Simple manipulations may involve furniture arrangements, positioning teachers and students, staff placement/movement, and the use of prompts and cues to avoid the potential for predictable problems. Because AE settings likely are characterized by more rigid schedules, routines, and supervision to maintain order as part of tier I intervention, students with failures are those for whom even such intense environmental controls have not been sufficient. Thus, the typical student in these settings will require an increased intensity of manipulations within the environment. Given the previously discussed issues associated with a range of perspectives among staff, this increased intensity may be deemed unnecessary by some. The role of the team leader will be to focus attention to the question, "what would it take for you to feel comfortable predicting that the student will be successful tomorrow?" Still, adults whose perspective is that students must take full responsibility for their success will be a challenge for any effort to implement consistent and comprehensive environmental support for student success.

Reinforcement systems such as token economies may be useful in assisting the delivery of frequent reinforcement (Kerr & Nelson, 2009) and are commonplace in more restrictive settings and with students presenting the most intense behaviors. In addition, verbal reinforcement, social recognition, and physical gestures (e.g., pats on the back) can be provided easily and frequently--but may not be relevant in the context of AE settings. The team must keep in mind that the purpose of the FBA was to identify the natural reinforcers in the environment. The goal is to encourage students to engage in replacement behavior so that the natural reinforcer (i.e., function) may be delivered. Increasing positive interactions presents a major challenge to settings in which negativity and punishment have been the norm. Again, the team leader must facilitate the team's planning for reinforcement, considering the objections that some staff may have to the provision of even the simplest forms of verbal praise.

Step 5: Evaluate

No plan is effective if it is not implemented. Nor may an ineffective plan be rendered effective if it is not monitored, evaluated, and adjusted as necessary. Thus, an effective FBP must be constantly reviewed and modified according to data that are collected throughout the implementation process. This process is based on an appropriate and accurate FBA the behaviors of concern, the development of a behavioral intervention plan that incorporates the results of this assessment, and the accurate implementation of this plan by those who work directly with the student.

The purpose of monitoring student behavior is to evaluate the effectiveness of intervention. Interventions that are effective should be continued while those that are not must be reconsidered and adapted with consideration of the data (Kerr & Nelson, 2009). AE settings present challenges for individual data collection that are similar to those presented at tiers I and II. That is, a broader range of staff, settings, and contexts requires intensified training and support to facilitate consistent monitoring; and a shift from data collection processes only after a behavioral incident occurs. In addition, the increased complexity of student behaviors likely will warrant more complex measures. For example, behaviors associated with how a student interacts with adults when presented with a direction requires that the same type of data be collected across teachers, security officers, counselors, administrators, and all other ancillary personnel. Furthermore, FBPs for intense behavior often will require that intervention continue unchanged over extended periods of time. Clearly, the longer an intervention is in place, the more likely it is that staff will drift from the agreed upon procedures. The team must meet more regularly than what would be the norm in a typical setting. It is recommended that teams meet weekly--but no less than once every two weeks. This increased intensity is necessary to keep the team focused on the intervention requirements and to provide a time to discuss issues affecting both the fidelity and success of the intervention.


The challenges presented by the complexities, intensities, and variations associated with AE settings require increased intensity in the development, implementation, and monitoring of effective procedures across all three PBIS tiers. While the practice of FBA leading to an FBP is not different in these settings, the intensity of procedures required to predict success likely is. It is tempting to suggest that logical steps toward improving outcomes for these students would involve public schools committing to more proactive intervention, effective instructional practices across all students, and decreasing exclusion as a disciplinary policy. However, while these policies are widely advocated (NAACP, 2005) and supported by available research, the current system of AE settings persists and efforts must be made within that reality.

As a general rule, AE settings must be organized in a manner that supports multi-tiered systems of support such as PBIS (Jolivette, McDaniel, Sprague, Swain-Bradway, & Ennis, 2012). For those students whose behaviors were not responsive to tiers I and II support, tier III support systems must be established and working in a consistent manner. However, the complexities of AE settings require that processes and procedures be implemented with greater intensity in terms of input, contextual consideration, and fidelity. At tier III, the system is defined by an individualized student-centered team, whose job it is to develop interventions that will be implemented across the entire system. The suggestions in the research literature regarding effective implementation of these teams are generally considered best practices in terms of promoting the probability of success in public school settings. However, in more complex AE settings these suggestions must be both bolstered and considered as essential features, with practices in place to ensure fidelity.

Perhaps the hallmark of any effective system is the degree to which the stakeholders are able to reach consensus as to the essential practices and to then engage in those practices in a consistent manner that becomes the culture of the school/facility. While AE settings present challenges to such agreements and consistency, the systemic structure of the PBIS tiered framework provides mechanisms to facilitate consistent use of effective practice no matter the tiers of support needed.


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Terrance M. Scott

Justin Cooper

University of Louisville

Address correspondence to Terrance M. Scott, University of Louisville, 158A Education, Louisville, KY 40292; e-mail:
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Title Annotation:Positive behavior interventions and supports
Author:Scott, Terrance M.; Cooper, Justin
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2013
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