by James C. Sherlock
I have found both surprise and confusion among some readers when I use the term “valid studies” in discussing the avalanche of doctoral theses and studies produced annually by schools of education.
The federal Institute for Educational Sciences established What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) in 2002 to sort the wheat from the chaff for school divisions and state education agencies before they choose a particular intervention to pursue in seeking to solve a problem.
Since I discovered WWC a few years ago, I check it in my own research in an attempt to make sure I don’t go down a rabbit hole with some study that is flawed.
On the subject of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) WWC shows in assessments of interventions to solve problems of social emotional learning and behavior management:
- strong evidence that PBIS offers no measurable improvement, and
- that there are alternative approaches to PBIS that do show strong improvement.
One study of PBIS, conducted in Maryland (which will come up again later), was the only one ever to meet strict WWC standards of quality and strong evidence.
Strong evidence from that trial – in 2010 – found that PBIS did not work to improve social emotional development and behavior in K-5 children.
There were no positive findings. None.
Yet a very large number of Virginia’s largest school divisions use it anyway.
And all of them started using it after that 2010 study.
But then again, so did Maryland.