One such study, in 2002, involved 37 elementary schools; half of the schools received PBIS training and the other half did not, she said. Bradshaw said that schools trained in PBIS showed significant reductions in suspensions, office discipline referrals, bullying behavior and disruptive behavior.

Research indicates that the earlier the model is implemented the better, Bradshaw said. "When kids come into kindergarten, for example, PBIS helps them adjust to the expectations of a classroom environment. For those kids, it probably just seems like school to them."

Still, Bradshaw said that PBIS can be a difficult sell for some teachers, who sometimes see it as an additional demand to an already labor-intensive schedule.

Sharon Glennen, PTSA president at Wilde Lake High School and a parent of three children in Howard County schools, said that while she can see the benefits of the program, she wonders if it has caused schools to turn out students "who are only used to being rewarded."

A speech language pathology professor at Towson University, Glennen said, "We see students coming in who are only used to getting rewards and they say, 'I'm getting a C in the class; what's the extra credit that I can do to raise my grade?' And then they're in shock when they find out that in college, there is no extra credit to raise the grade."

But Lannon says data support the program's success. She implemented PBIS as an assistant principal at West Friendship Elementary in Howard County, and after its first year there, she said, the number of school bus misconduct referrals issued dropped from about 30 to four.

"PBIS plays into the belief here that if the kids aren't available and ready to learn, it doesn't matter what we're teaching them," she said. "It goes hand and hand with the academics."

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts