Anyone who works in education knows that teachers, administrators, and other school staff love to use acronyms. But for those new to teaching (as well as parents/guardians/community members), it can be challenging to keep up with the vast amount of different terms. This is especially true in the world of behavior and social-emotional learning, as acronyms sometimes get thrown around without much description or context. Educators need to understand what each acronym stands for and what components it should include to set up effective behavior plans within MTSS.
Below, we outline the most commonly used acronyms when addressing student behavior within an MTSS framework, break down what they mean, and how to use them effectively.
The ABC model is a tool to help examine behavior. In education, this model is typically used by teachers and behavior specialists to identify events or actions that trigger a student's behavior, the behavior itself, and the outcome or impact of that behavior. Sometimes eliminating the antecedent can be enough to reduce problematic behaviors in the classroom.
It can also be helpful to work directly with students to help them identify these patterns and learn how they can change their behavior in response to a specific antecedent to have different outcomes or consequences. Teachers and specialists can also use ABC to reinforce positive behavior. The consequences provided do not need to be punishments; students can receive or be made aware of a reward or reinforcer due to selecting a more prosocial behavior.
Also referred to as Behavior Support Programs (BSP), Behavior Intervention/Improvement Plans (BIPs) are often used for students based upon teacher observations, student assessments or screeners, and/or teacher-collected data identifying the need for additional behavioral supports.
A critical part of developing a BIP is identifying the specific behavior(s) that a student needs to improve (see FBA: Functional Behavioral Assessment) and developing operational definitions of the behavior. Effective BIPs include four essential components:
These interventions or supports can include a structured program and/or practices and strategies that the teacher will be implementing throughout the plan.
➡️ Related resource: How to use progress monitoring data to guide decision making in an MTSS practice
CICO is one of the most commonly used behavior interventions in schools. It is both a process for behavior progress monitoring and intervention and support for students (see IBM). This method involves collaboration among teachers and students to identify specific behaviors that the student will work on during a specified amount of time.
At the beginning of each classroom period/day/week (depending on the level and intensity of student need), the student checks in with their teacher to go over the behaviors they are working on during the designated time. Throughout the period, day, or week, the teacher or student tracks the frequency of their working behaviors, using one of the progress monitoring approaches outlined below. At the end of the designated time frame, the student checks out with the teacher to review how they did. It is recommended that teachers also use the check-in and out time to discuss specific strategies students can use to improve their behaviors in the classroom.
➡️ Related resource: Integrating SEL Into an MTSS Framework: Resolving Four Common Problems
DBR is a flexible tool for progress monitoring students' behavior. With this method, teachers rate behavior on a predetermined scale (e.g., 0 to 5). Each point on the scale should be clearly defined so that teachers can accurately and consistently provide ratings based on the behaviors they are observing. This tool will sometimes involve teacher training to ensure that the scale is being used appropriately. Teachers can also calculate a daily or weekly average based on the rating scale scores and use that to indicate progress over time.
An FBA is used when developing a behavior intervention plan for a student. The process involves using student data (or, if needed, collecting preliminary data) to determine which behavior(s) they are struggling with and/or the behavioral skill that requires support. An FBA usually includes multiple parties who frequently interact with the student, such as classroom teachers and parents and members of the school's behavior support team, such as specialists, social workers, and counselors.
It’s critical to use as much data as possible when conducting an FBA; teachers should be encouraged to come to these types of meetings with certain pieces of information such as documented behavior incidents, assessment data, school work, or documented observations. The outcome of an FBA are specific behavioral skills that the student will work on that will then go into the BIP.
➡️ Related resource: Using Proactive and Preventive Behavioral Strategies in MTSS
When data is collected as part of an intervention, it’s referred to as Intervention-Based Measures. CICO is an excellent example of an IBM. Some SEL programs include student self-reported assessments or check-ins where they can report on their progress. For it to count as both an intervention and progress monitor, there should be an active component where teachers review data with students and discuss skills, strategies, and practices to help improve their behavior.
PBIS is a preventative framework for supporting the development of positive and prosocial behaviors in schools and classrooms. PBIS includes using practices, tools, and strategies that work to reward or reinforce positive behaviors. The model runs counter to using exclusionary discipline practices in schools, such as suspensions, expulsions, detentions, and time-outs.
PBIS also involves a set of classroom management practices that are consistently implemented to proactively prevent problematic behaviors and promote behaviors that best serve the classroom as a whole. Like an MTSS framework, PBIS involves using evidence-based interventions and practices, tiered levels of support, and the use of data collection and analysis to inform decision-making. Examples of evidence-based PBIS tools and approaches across tier levels can be found here.
SWPBIS is when the PBIS framework is applied across an entire school or district. It involves integrating these practices into the culture of a school and includes supporting the needs of families and communities that work with the school. When a school-wide approach is used, administrators and teachers should analyze student behavioral outcomes at the school and grade level.
In SWPBIS, an effort is made to select culturally appropriate behavioral and social-emotional interventions and supports that also support equity and positive outcomes specifically for groups of students that may be marginalized or face additional barriers based on their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or special education status.
➡️ Related resource: Restorative Practices and How They Fit into MTSS
➡️ Related resource: The Power of Strength-Based Instruction
SDO is another behavior progress monitoring method that measures student behavior in real-time. When using this approach, it is critical to have a detailed definition of the behavior being observed for both examples and non-examples. For low-frequency behaviors, such as staying in a lineup, teachers can simply use a frequency count over a day or week. For higher-frequency behaviors, such as raising one's hand, teachers can identify a block of time throughout the day to keep track of the frequency. When different lengths of time are used, the observer should convert the frequency to a rate (e.g., number of times per hour).
Ongoing high-frequency behaviors, such as staying on task, can be monitored using momentary time-sampling. For example, every 5 minutes, the teacher might check to see if the student is on-task and give a "point" if they are. Teachers can also turn this number into a percent; the numerator is the number of times the student is on-task, and the denominator is the number of "checks" a teacher does (multiplied by 100). Although it can be the most resource-intensive method for behavior progress monitoring, SDO is also the most accurate and sensitive to change over time.
Are there other common acronyms used by your school or district? Let us know in the comments!
Interested in Learning How to Support the Whole Child with Branching Minds?
Branching Minds makes MTSS easy, efficient, and effective by bringing together all of the components of MTSS so teachers can collaboratively problem-solve and support all students’ holistic needs. Our system-level solution helps schools improve students’ outcomes across academics, behavior, and SEL equitably.
Our platform supports teachers with Behavior and SEL in the following ways:
✅ Assessing SEL Needs with the DESSA
✅ Understand Students Perception of their Own SEL Competence with the SECA
✅ Leveraging SEL Screeners for Tiering
✅ More effective problem-solving
✅ Finding the Right Evidence-based Interventions & Accommodations for Each Learner
✅ Creating Intervention Plans and Monitoring Daily & Weekly Progress in Behavior/SEL
✅ Logging & Monitoring Behavior Incidents
✅ Pattern Matching Behavior Incidents Across Groups
Essie Sutton is an Applied Developmental Psychologist and the Director of Learning Science at Branching Minds. Her work brings together the fields of Child Development and Education Psychology to improve learning and development for all students. Dr. Sutton is responsible for studying the impacts of the Branching Minds on students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes. She also leverages MTSS research and best practices to develop and improve the Branching Minds platform.