In the same schools use their SWIS data to look for patterns, researchers also wanted to see what trends they could find in the national database.2 As you might expect, there are common themes all over the place. The first that stands out is the behaviors most likely to get an elementary or a middle school student referred – fighting and defiance, respectively. Taken at face value, it's not so interesting, but keep going with me and you'll see how it fits.
In addition to research questions, PBISApps also comes out with national trend data based on the referrals entered in SWIS during the previous school year. For example, in 2017-18, the median average number of referrals written per day in elementary schools was about 1 referral for 500 students. During that same school year, about 8% of elementary schoolers, 13% of middle schoolers, and 13% of high schoolers received 2 or more referrals.
Students with more than two referrals typically need additional support for their behavior; these students often don't appear on anyone's radar until late in the year after they've accumulated their third, fourth, or fifth referral. If schools could intervene earlier, they'd have the ability to change the trajectory of a whole group of students' entire year for the better.
So Teams Can Anticipate Problems…
Enter two studies – one in 2014, one in 2010 – aimed at determining how early we can predict which students will be referred to the office more than twice during the year3,4. Turns out, we can predict that, and we can do it as early as October. In fact, 50% of elementary students and 71% of middle school students who ended the year with six or more referrals had at least two referrals by the end of October. (Whew, that was a mouthful.) Also, if students had at least one referral by October for one of two behaviors, their odds of accumulating more than six referrals by the end of the year went up. Can you guess which two behaviors they were?
Fighting and defiance: The most referred behaviors in elementary and middle school.
This means, you have an opportunity to break the cycle and help students build a new path.
And Improve Student Outcomes
Start by finding out which students have one or more warning flags by the end of October:
- Two or more referrals
- At least one referral for fighting
- At least one referral for defiance
Save these names and check in on them again at the end of November. If any student continued to rack up referrals, rally your Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams around them and see what support they might need.
Do you see what we just did? All of these trends and patterns and predictions are all possible because of where we started: consistent procedures. The agreements you make about your discipline procedures directly affect your ability to support students to achieve better outcomes. With all our talk about using data to make decisions, we should spend a little more time talking about the systems surrounding those data – and that's just what we'll do over the next three months. Join us for our upcoming series as we explore creating efficient referral processes, defining subjective behaviors, and ensuring equitable responses to problem behaviors.
1. Irvin, L., Tobin, T., Sprague, J., Sugai, G., & Vincent, C. (2004). Validity of Office Discipline Referral Measures as Indices of School-Wide Behavioral Status and Effects of School-Wide Behavioral Interventions. Journal Of Positive Behavior Interventions, 6(3), 131-147. doi: 10.1177/10983007040060030201
2. Spaulding, S., Irvin, L., Horner, R., May, S., Emeldi, M., Tobin, T., & Sugai, G. (2008). Schoolwide Social-Behavioral Climate, Student Problem Behavior, and Related Administrative Decisions. Journal Of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(2), 69-85. doi: 10.1177/1098300708329011
3. Predy, L., McIntosh, K., & Frank, J. (2014). Utility of Number and Type of Office Discipline Referrals in Predicting Chronic Problem Behavior in Middle Schools. School Psychology Review, 43(4), 472-489.
4. McIntosh, K., Frank, J., & Spaulding, S. A. (2010). Establishing Research-Based Trajectories of Office Discipline Referrals for Individual Students. School Psychology Review, 39, 380-394.