The North Carolina Positive Behavioral Support Initiative is part of the North Carolina State Improvement Program funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Although the initiative is aimed at helping individuals with disabilities, it is now mandated in many classrooms. In my last series of public seminars conducted in Phoenix, Denver, Billings, Portland, and Salt Lake City in April of 2013, almost every teacher in attendance indicated that PBIS was mandated.
The state’ mandate reads, “All schools in North Carolina will implement Positive Behavior Support as an effective and proactive process for improving social competence and academic achievement for all students.”
The substitute teacher was surprised when a student asked if the class had earned a marble for the quiet way in which they had returned from lunch.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean that you earned a marble?”
A student explained, “Our teacher puts a marble in a jar if we walk back from the cafeteria quietly and in line. When the jar is full, we are given an afternoon with no work.”
Confused, the guest teacher asked, “But aren’t you supposed to walk quietly in the hall so that you don’t disturb other classes? Why should you earn a marble for doing what is right?”
The students looked to each other, confused at the question. Finally, a student tried to explain, “We always get a reward for following rules. Why else should we follow the rules?”
Mandating Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports to be used with all students is another attempt to impose “one size fists all” and is forcing many teachers to use a system that goes against their belief that rewarding young people when they act responsibly is bad educational practice for all concerned—except perhaps for those students with special needs who require something tangible to reinforce what the teachers desire.