Begin problem solving with precision statements


In an earlier blog (The value of using data) we discussed the importance of using data and the particular methods and types of data that are helpful to school teams to implement SW-PBIS. We pointed out that there are many different types of data available to schools, so we advised teams to focus on data that answer two broad questions:

(1) Are we implementing SWPBIS with fidelity?

(2) Does it make a difference for the students and school climate?

In this blog we are going to discuss how to use “precision statements” as the framework for problem solving and action planning. We plan to illustrate how to develop these statements with student behavior data. In the next blog we will describe the overall problem solving process using these statements.


Readers will understand the difference between Primary and Precision statements and learn how to write a Precision Statement for their school.


                    Primary versus Precision statements

  • Primary Statements tend to be general descriptors of broad problems or status.
  • A precision statement is a concise; data based description of an existing problem and current status. Because it is based on objective data, a precision statement moves us away from talking or planning based on subjective, non-measurable problems.

 Advantage of Precision Statements

 According to the Team Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS) approach (University of Oregon) precision statements define the current status of student behavior by answering the questions of what, where, when who and why. The obvious benefits are that we use data and define the problem specifically enough that we can target our actions and resources.


 Primary and precision statements apply to student behavioral data (ODR), academic data and implementation data. We will share an example using student office referral data.


Primary Statement


Precision Statement
There were too many office referrals The most frequent referral last year was disruptive behavior (65%) answers (what) 15% of referrals occurred in morning advisory (where) from 8:15-8:45 AM (when), 35% of referrals were 9thgrade male students (who) to gain peer attention (why).

Next steps for teams

When you meet to review progress in student behavior, your team may start with some general descriptions of what’s going on in your school. Resist the urge to start planning based on these general perceptions.

Drill down into your school-wide student behavior data and answer the questions:

What               (what are the behaviors)

Where            (where are the behaviors observed)

When              (what time and what day are the behaviors observed)

Who                (who are the students exhibiting the behaviors)

Why                (what motivation seems associated with the behaviors)

Answering these 5 questions will vastly improve the quality of your planning and the value of your outcomes. Your action plan will target specific, well-defined needs and use staff time efficiently in developing solutions.

Mid-Year Reconnect

Happy December! As we move through December and into January, it is a great time to stop and review how your PBIS leadership team is doing and if the action plan is still on track to meeting outcomes. I like the months of January and February in Minnesota for reflection. It’s too cold to make me want to go outside, so I stay in, review data, read, and do some research. It’s a great time to check that your team is working smarter not harder. Use this winter time to reconnect, reflect, and renew your commitment to PBIS, even if you are in sunny Florida.

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The Value of Using Data


The value of using data                            

Ever feel like you are drowning in information and data? Recently I was at a medical appointment with a friend. The specialist was talking about specialized scans and other evaluation tools. He commented about situations where tests provide a lot of information (data) but it’s not always useful. Sometimes there is a lot of information but it does not lead to an intervention. Well, you say, that’s medicine; we are in education.

Wait, I say, educators and school systems collect a massive amount of information (data) for various reasons. But how do we use these data. Which data for what purpose is so very important?

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Growth Mindset and PBIS: Kindred Spirits

Is Growth Mindset on your mind like it is on mine? I have been hearing a lot about this term and was vaguely familiar with it; I sort of knew what it meant but didn’t grasp the deeper meaning of how to apply it to PBIS, if these two things were even similar. Well, it turns out they are very compatible and things that I have been telling my students over the past 20 years or so, have been Growth Mindsets. Acquiring new behavior and social skills can be a long learning process that is frustrating and sometimes exhausting.  As a behavior specialist, I would offer students second chances, re-dos and re-winds. This is the Growth Mindset. I sometimes think of myself more of a coach than a teacher. I cheer kids on to victorious changes of behavior and social learning.

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Getting ready for the new school year in a positive way

Here it is mid August and everyone is enjoying the remaining days of summer before the new school year begins. Some of you may already be in workshops or offering workshops at your school.

We wanted to offer some tips for a great start to the school year with PBIS. These suggestions apply regardless of how long you have been at it.


First, take a few minutes to recognize what you are grateful for this summer. Make a list of 2 or 3 things or more that you cherish and that have made your summer meaningful. They need not be great adventures though those experiences are memorable, but maybe it’s time with your family that you don’t easily have, time with special friends, time outside, sleeping in, reading for fun, walking, biking or whatever keeps you moving. Maybe you accomplished something this summer that you have really wanted to do. It’s very personal to you.

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Beyond Trinkets and Tickets To Self-Awareness


“Good job!” is a phrase often heard throughout schools. Indeed, one of the features of PBIS implementation includes a system to reinforce students as they learn, and generalize new behaviors and social skills. “Good Job!” has become a tired phrase some teachers use every time students do something. Or they might hand out a ticket to acknowledge a student’s good behavior.  Neither of these things teach students to become more self-aware.

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Free Spirit Brochure

An excellent brochure from Free Spirit Publishing describing The PBIS Team Handbook and the services we offer! Click on it to download.

Venezuela, Sweden and the United States: Culturally Responsive Classrooms Across the Globe

I have just completed my first year teaching abroad. I left Minnesota for the warm, tropical climate of Venezuela. The school where I am the behavior/climate specialist is international, meaning the students hold two passports in order to attend. Many students have a US passport, in addition to their Venezuelan passport, but other countries represented include Argentina, Colombia, Syria, Russia and China. I am thankful the classes are all in English (my Spanish is woefully inadequate). Many cultures are represented at my school, and I want to be respectful to the Venezuelans, I have spent this past school year trying to answer the question: How much of students’ behavior is based on culture and my perception of how schools should function?

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Join Our Upcoming Webinar!

Char and I will be presenting a webinar on July 11 on building and sustaining PBIS leadership teams! This free webinar is sponsored by Free Spirit Publishing. Follow this link to register:

And if you can’t make the date, it will be archived.

Writing Your Elevator Speech for PBIS

Are you trying to figure out your elevator speech about PBIS? PBIS has a lot of moving parts that work together to create safe, efficient and effective learning environments. Describing it quickly and easily can be difficult. You can use this cheat sheet to help.

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