The 2021-2022 school year began full of promise. Students, families, and educators were ready to get back to pre-pandemic learning routines. Almost no one was prepared for how the landscape had changed – many educators had left the profession, staffing needs were at an all-time high, and students were engaging in more frequent and more severe challenging behaviors.

The disruption wreaked by Covid dramatically impacted our students, especially those who were at-risk or experiencing behavior challenges prior to the pandemic. School leadership often struggled to meet the training needs of their staff–many of whom were brand new–especially needs related to behavior support.

The influx of staffing issues coupled with the uptick in challenging behaviors highlights the need for dedicated, integrated behavior support systems that are proactive, responsive to students’ individual needs, and grounded in evidence-based practices proven to increase prosocial behaviors.

Systems are what support staff behaviors and include training, ongoing coaching and performance feedback, efficient data collection processes, and opportunities for professional development. Models like schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS) provide a framework for creating sustainable systems that can be brought to scale.

Diane Myers, Ph.D. is senior vice president, special education – behavior for Specialized Education Services, Inc. Her professional and scholarly expertise focus on positive behavioral interventions and supports, students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and staff implementation of evidence-based practices to support the needs of all students.

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