PBIS, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and a Broader Strategy for Equity

Equity as a journey requires reflection and growth. For district leaders and educators in PUSD, this journey continues with the implementation of an MTSS framework. MTSS is a comprehensive framework designed to provide effective technical assistance for districts and schools that wish to holistically serve every child through the coherent alignment of all their initiatives, supports, and resources.1, 2

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS):
Superintendent Richard Martinez reflects on how PBIS has impacted school discipline policy and practice in Pomona Unified School District.

While PBIS focuses on behavioral intervention, MTSS asks schools and districts to take stock of all their programs and supports (behavioral, academic, and social-emotional) and to evaluate the effectiveness of each resource as well as its’ accessibility to students who may need it. In essence, MTSS is a method of organizing, integrating, and streamlining efforts so that every students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs are met in the most inclusive and equitable learning environment possible.
With the initial success of PBIS in PUSD, the move to also adopt MTSS as a district-wide strategy already has collective buy-in spanning from cabinet members to school communities. Superintendent Martinez explained:

“Parents would ask, so how come this is at this school and not this? It has created a positive thing for everybody, where parents want to see that across the district. Lately, with MTSS, they keep saying MTSS because that’s the language we are using and they see the supports, the strategies, the fidelity, and focus both on social-emotional supports and academics; so now what is working for us is also what they are demanding. This really captures the essence of local control and LCFF.”

As a multitiered strategy, PBIS falls under the umbrella of MTSS and acts as a springboard toward a more comprehensive framework for supporting students. Leveraging the newly formed leadership teams and the shifts in values and beliefs regarding whole-child support, stakeholders can now take on bigger roles of building capacity, providing technical assistance, and integrating efforts.

The distinction between equality and equity, along with the collective transition toward thinking of the whole child, has been consequential not only for classroom practices but also for the way every aspect of the district operates. While, for many, it has taken time, it has had profound implications for their roles and practices. Among them, the need to know who their students are, which has triggered multiple efforts for more culturally relevant practices.

As explained by Morillo-Shone, “A key component of broadening from PBIS to MTSS and to a broader approach to equity lies in the understanding of our responsibility as a system to educate the whole child, and this means that from social-emotional supports, it is broadened to social-emotional supports, academic supports, and ultimately into pedagogy, curriculum, structure, how we engage with families, everything. After all, we are talking about the whole child.”


  1. California Department of Education. (2019) Multi-Tiered System of Support. https://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/ri/.
  2. Sailor, W. , McCart, A. , and Choi, J.H. (2018) Reconceptualizing Inclusive Education Through Multi-Tiered System of Support. Inclusion: March 2018, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 3-18.