In its call for social-emotional learning curricula to be integral to every public-school student’s education, federal IDEA legislation, and subsequently ESSA, mandate multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to meet the needs of all students, academically, socially, and emotionally. This embrace of a response to intervention (RTI) systems-approach is one that many school districts comply with through adoption of school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). In fact, PBIS is mentioned in legislative language as an exemplar, albeit states and local districts are free to choose their methodology from a host of frameworks, systems, curricula, and programs.

PBIS has enjoyed prominence in academic literature and in applied settings of more than 20,000 U.S. schools in the past two decades. With foundational research and practices relative to teaching behavioral expectations with positive language, easy to remember community rules, and differentiated levels of supports, PBIS is based on the public health model of universal prevention and education, secondary supports and differentiation, and tertiary interventions for those with intensive risk factors.

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There is much in the way of qualitative recommendations for implementation of layered continuum approaches in the body of research; however, opportunities abound for applied knowledge to be explored and analyzed relative to how to create and sustain effective systems of support for all learners when all three tiers are in motion.

About the Author:

Dr. Cynthia Kennedy has spent more than two decades creating and sustaining school-based systems to meet the needs of all students as a teacher, principal, and instructional leader in Massachusetts. Since completing her doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of New England last year, she has authored and published multiple books on multi-tiered systems of support, such as Leading School-wide PBIS: An Implementation Guide for School Principals and SWPBIS Teams, and School-wide PBIS: An Implementation Guide for PLC. Both are available through Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Dr. Kennedy can be contacted at