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Looking for the positive

by JOSH McDONALDDEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | February 27, 2024 1:09 AM

Schools across North Idaho are supporting students through Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports programs.

“Positive reinforcement has been written about and used by every educator since the beginning of time because it works,” said Patty Morrison, assistant superintendent of elementary education for the Coeur d’Alene School District.

PBIS aims to create schools where students feel valued, connected and supported. It focuses on academic, social, emotional and behavioral success.

PBIS is not a curriculum. It is a multi-tiered system that schools develop using five criteria: systems, equity, data, practices and outcomes.

According to the Center on PBIS, about 27,000 schools across the country use PBIS programming. 

In Idaho, district PBIS programs are funded as part of Idaho Tiered Behavior Supports, which funnels state resources, technical assistance and ongoing training to each school district’s PBIS coach. 

PBIS coaches develop teams to create Tier 1 plans. Both Kellogg and Wallace school districts use Idaho Tiered Behavior Supports programming.

“The schools should utilize the framework PBIS offers to develop programs specifically for the school's local culture, community and climate,” Kellogg School District Superintendent Lance Pearson said.

Kellogg School District Special Education Director Tina Karst is also the district’s PBIS coach. She said office referrals throughout the district have gone down since PBIS was implemented.

Kellogg schools use the resources from ITBS to create reward systems based on each school’s core values. The idea is to encourage staff to reward positive behaviors.

English and creative writing instructor Kelton Enich, who leads the Kellogg High PBIS team, has spent the past two years working to lay that foundation through the establishment of the Tier 1 support level. 

“We have been focusing the last few years on really diving into that foundational Tier 1 piece and making sure our school expectations are crystal clear,” said Cassie Martines, a counselor at West Ridge Elementary School in Post Falls.

Tier 1 entails establishing connections between the schools and students’ families to emphasize these expectations, as well as responding to negative behavior in a constructive manner.

“At KHS, we have been implementing PBIS at a Tier 1 level for the last two years to help improve student behavior, school culture and attendance,” Enich said.

As part of this, the Kellogg High team implemented Wildcat PRIDE, which stands for “Protection, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Engagement.” 

When students are seen exemplifying these traits, they are awarded Wildcat PRIDE cards, which are then put into a weekly drawing for prizes. 

West Ridge Elementary also uses its mascot in its PBIS programming, with Cougar PRIDE standing for “Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Dependable and Empathy.”

“Everything we do is focused around those five character traits,” Martines said.

West Ridge has used PBIS for a few years.

“We do see an increase in understanding expectations in the buildings,” Martines said. 

The concepts are broken down for all grade levels, she said.

“We are integrating this language into our daily routine in academics and behavior,” she said. “We can also use it for teachable moments. When a kiddo makes a poor choice, we can say, ‘You weren’t showing empathy today, what can we do to show empathy next time?’”

Students seen demonstrating the character traits at West Ridge will earn Cougar Cash, which they can spend on prizes at the school store or they can save their rewards for class parties.

Tier 2 of PBIS is designed for students who need more targeted support and reinforcement. Tier 3 requires individualized, intensive educational opportunities.

Kellogg High has used PBIS resources to improve attendance by rewarding students who are not late or absent.

“They have a new shot at achieving perfect attendance each week," Enich said. "We've seen an improvement in attendance since starting this at the beginning of December.”

Wallace School District Superintendent Todd Howard said he has witnessed improvements since PBIS was implemented in his district over six years ago.

“The program allowed us to create a proactive system focused on student behavior that developed consistent expectations across all school environments including classrooms, hallways, recess, restrooms and the cafeteria,” he said.


    From left, West Ridge Elementary third graders Kylie Legerton, Brynlee Riekena and Cooper Norris spend Cougar Cash on a Bluetooth speaker, mystery prizes and a ticket to the monthly party as part of their school's Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports programming. At West Ridge, Cougar PRIDE stands for “Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Dependable and Empathy.”