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The EDge newsletter—a publication of the California Department of Education, Special Education Division—informs and supports California’s parents, policymakers, educators, and other service providers on special education topics, focusing on research-based practices, legislation, technical support, and current resources.

Autumn 2005 Volume 19 Number 1


School-wide Behavior Supports/Secondary Level

Download Autumn 2005
Volume 19



State Improvement Grant Money Supports Whole-School Behavior Program: BEST: Building Effective Schools Together


Starting in 2000, the State of California contracted with the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior (IVDB) at the University of Oregon, along with the California Institute on Human Services (CIHS) at Sonoma State University, to deliver training in Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) to schools and districts across the state. The project, entitled BEST (Building Effective Schools Together), trains school teams to develop positive school rules, teach these rules clearly to students, and put reinforcement systems in place to build motivation for positive behavior.

PBS is based on the idea that students who exhibit negative behaviors have learned to do so because the behavior "works" for them-they get something out of it, even if it's just negative attention. PBS seeks to reduce these problem behaviors at school, replace them with positive ones, and ensure that the positive behaviors are recognized and rewarded. According to Jeff Sprague from the University of Oregon's Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior, "Evidence suggests that sustained use of PBS practices can alter the trajectory of at-risk children toward destructive outcomes and prevent the onset of risk behavior in typically developing children." Sprague cites numerous studies that provide strong evidence that sustained implementation of PBS helps a school realize both academic achievement and positive social development for all children (Horner, Sugai, Todd, & Lewis-Palmer, in press; Walker et al., 1996). Best Behavior (Sprague & Golly, 2004) was selected for use in California because it is a comprehensive staff development curriculum for installing a wide range of PBS practices. Its development is based on research from the National Center on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports ( at the University of Oregon.

From 2000 to 2003, a total of 57 BEST trainings were held for nearly 2,600 attendees. In follow-up emails, 91 percent of the respondents (representing 41 percent of those to whom the survey was sent) indicated that they were using strategies they had learned at the trainings. Respondents reported a 30 percent increase in their average level of knowledge about the subject, and rated their experience high in every category, with an overall rating of 4.4 on a five-point scale.

The effectiveness of the trainings can be credited in large part to good training design. Sites interested in attending the two trainings were required to participate as a team and as a team to attend a follow-up session several months later. Teams were typically made up of school administrators, special education teachers, general education teachers, and parents. Survey respondents indicated that having the buy-in of administrators helped deliver a consistent message about behavior to the students.

In 2003 the project's focus shifted to a train-the-trainers model, as 62 professionals and parents were chosen to become part of a California cadre of trainers, to enlarge the reach of BEST practices. Funding for this new phase came from the federal government as an enhancement to California's existing State Improvement Grant (SIG). Cadre members were given intensive coaching in BEST strategies and in methods of sharing this information with others. The cadre model increased the capacity of the state and bolstered the sustainability of the project, as the cadre then went on to deliver 37 trainings to 1,600 participants from 190 different sites by 2005.

In a survey conducted with 73 sites after the first year of implementation, staff trained by the cadre reported that they have begun to effectively implement aspects of the BEST behavior program, both in the classroom and schoolwide. Sites reported progress in the participation of administrators, supervisors, and teachers; in defining rules for the school; and in making positive behavioral supports a priority.

Much of PBS is focused on changing school climate-essentially helping students and teachers discover a positive and welcoming attitude toward education. This has a snowball effect and creates even more positive change. One of the most important steps toward this goal is to have the enthusiastic participation of everyone at every level of the school. This seems to be happening at the schools participating in the BEST trainings: on evaluations, teachers note with enthusiasm the complete buy-in-bus drivers, teachers, administrators, students, parents, office staff-everyone. By helping all of these people learn and then teach ways to communicate a clear and consistent positive message to students about behavior, the BEST participants-even though most of them are newly trained-are already changing school climate across California and positively affecting students lives for the better. It's not called BEST for nothing.

State, Improvement, Grant, Money, Whole-School, Best

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Last updated: 02/10/2017