Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Lindsey R. Turner, Ph.D.

Major Advisor

Keith W. Thiede, Ph.D.


Hannah G. Calvert, Ph.D.


School climate can be complex to measure and to change, but it is clear that it is a critical component of an effective school. One practice that has been shown to positively influence school climate is Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a framework of evidence-based practices and its power for initiating change has been shown to come from fidelity of implementation of its key components. Although there is a lot of research on PBIS implementation, not a lot is known about implementation in rural schools and the unique challenges that setting provides. This study measures baseline levels of PBIS components, assesses the perceptions of school climate, and analyzes how those two domains are associated in rural schools prior to formal PBIS training and implementation.

In this quantitative study, the baseline data for a Randomized Controlled Trial with 40 rural schools across one state is utilized as the sample data. The Schoolwide Evaluation Tool (SET) is used to measure fidelity of PBIS implementation at each school and the Maryland Safe and Supportive Schools (MDS3) Climate Survey provides the perspectives of students, parents, and staff on school climate. Information on the relationship between these variables in the rural setting will contribute important information to researchers and implementers in rural schools.

The analysis found that although there is generally a positive perspective on school climate in these rural schools, a lack of fidelity in PBIS implementation is evident, and is associated with climate perceptions. The only PBIS component implemented to fidelity across the schools was a strong discipline system, yet was associated with lower order and discipline. These results suggest that the punishment-heavy approaches that schools are utilizing are not producing the desired outcomes without the foundational practices of teaching and acknowledging expected behavior. In fact, clearly teaching expectations was significantly associated with improved climate perspectives of staff and parents, and having a system for acknowledging those expectations was significantly associated with improved climate perspectives of students.

I recommend that future researchers and implementers build on these findings and conclusions to better understand how to implement PBIS in rural schools. Additional research that applies similar methodologies to other demographic groups and more urban settings is needed for further comparison. Additional time points and longitudinal data will also provide more insights to the causes and impacts of PBIS on school climate in small and remote schools.