Today, educators at all grade levels face a growing number of students whose behavior challenges the success of daily classroom instruction. Fortunately, teachers usually are able to rely on standard strategies for addressing classroom misbehavior, such as solid teaching practices, clear rules and expectations, being physically close to their students, and praising and encouraging positive behaviors. Either independently or with the support of colleagues, they are able to find a successful solution to the problem. However, for some students-both with and without disabilities-these tactics fail to produce the desired outcome and may actually worsen an already difficult situation.

In recognition of the negative effect that student misbehavior can have on the teaching and learning process, the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (the law that governs special education) requires schools to take various steps to address behavior that prevents students from learning and other inappropriate classroom behavior. In an effort to ensure that schools are safe and conducive to learning, the 1997 Amendments include the use of the process known as functional behavioral assessment to develop or revise positive behavioral intervention plans and supports.

With the 1997 Amendments to the IDEA, we see a basic emphasis not only on ensuring access to the "least restrictive environment," but also on promoting positive educational results for students with disabilities. The 1997 Amendments also highlight the roles of the regular education teacher, the general curriculum, and appropriate classroom placement in helping students advance academically and behaviorally.

Another change relates to disciplinary practices. The 1997 Amendments are explicit in what is required of Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams when addressing behaviors of children with disabilities that interfere with their learning or the learning of others.

  • The IEP team must consider, when appropriate, strategies-including positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports-to address that behavior through the IEP process (see 614(d)(3)(B)(i)).
  • In response to disciplinary actions by school personnel described in Sec. 615(k)(l)(B), the IEP team must, either before or no later than 10 days after the disciplinary action, develop a functional behavioral assessment plan to collect information. This information is to be used for developing a behavioral intervention plan to address such behaviors, if necessary. If the child already has a behavioral intervention plan, the IEP team must review the plan and modify it, if necessary, to address the behavior.
  • In addition, states are required to address the in-service training needs and pre-service preparation of personnel (including professionals and paraprofessionals who provide special education, general education, related services, or early intervention services) to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of students with disabilities. This includes enhancing their abilities to use strategies such as behavioral interventions and supports (653(c)(3)(D)(vi)).

This is the third of three guides that address the 1997 Amendments to IDEA as they relate to the issue of functional assessment and positive behavioral intervention plans and supports. The first monograph, Addressing Student Problem Behavior: An IEP Team's Introduction to Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plans, provides a general overview of these requirements. The second monograph, entitled Addressing Student Problem Behavior-Part II: Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment, examines the rationale for functional behavioral assessment and the process of conducting one, and describes the ways schools and IEP teams can translate this new public policy into classroom practice, by means of a step-by-step approach to functional behavioral assessment. The second monograph covers steps 1-6 of an integrated ten-step process that has been used by some for conducting functional behavioral assessments (see sidebar: A Method for Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment) and focuses on determining the function of student problem behaviors. Both are copyright-free and are available on the Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice's web site (http://cecp.air.org/) or by calling toll free 1-888-475-1551.

This third monograph discusses how to use the information gathered during the functional behavioral assessment process to develop and implement positive behavioral intervention plans that address both the short- and long-term needs of the student. We cover steps 7-10 of a functional assessment process that includes ways some school personnel are developing positive behavioral intervention plans and supports. In addition, we explore various factors associated with developing a thorough intervention plan and offer some thoughts on possible obstacles to conducting functional behavioral assessments. Finally, we encourage schools to make use of the functional behavioral assessment process and positive behavioral intervention plans as part of a system-wide program of academic and behavioral supports to better serve all students. We offer a list of sources for readers interested in obtaining more information on functional behavioral assessment and positive behavioral intervention plans. Blank forms and sample completed forms that might be used for developing positive behavioral intervention plans and crisis/emergency intervention plans are included in the Appendices.

A Method for Performing a Functional Behavioral Assessment
(see Addressing Student Problem Behavior-Part II: Conducting a Functional Behavioral Assessment for a detailed discussion of these steps)

  1. Describe and verify the seriousness of the problem.
  2. Refine the definition of the problem behavior.
  3. Collect information on possible functions of the problem behavior.
  4. Analyze information using data triangulation and/or problem pathway analysis.
  5. Generate a hypothesis statement regarding the probable function of the problem behavior.
  6. Test the hypothesis statement regarding the function of the problem behavior.

A Method for Developing, Implementing and Monitoring a
Behavior Intervention Plan

  1. Develop and implement a behavioral intervention plan.
  2. Monitor the faithfulness of implementation of the plan.
  3. Evaluate effectiveness of the behavior intervention plan.
  4. Modify behavior intervention plan, as needed.