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School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS)

Public Health & Prevention: School-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated January 2018.
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The intervention in this meta-analysis is School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) (note: the Positive Action and Responsive Classroom programs are examined separately). SWPBIS is a school-wide preventative intervention that aims to increase prosocial norms for all students and staff within a school. Program features include 1) a team of six to ten school staff members responsible for leading implementation, 2) an external behavioral support coach for on-site consultation, 3) clearly defined behavioral expectations for students, 4) a staff-developed lesson plan used to teach students the school-wide behavioral expectations, 5) consistent rewards for positive behavior that are used by all school staff, 6) consistent consequences for disciplinary infractions, and 7) a formal data collection and analysis system for disciplinary data. Once implemented, the program continues throughout each school year.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $3,421 Benefits minus costs $10,274
Participants $3,563 Benefit to cost ratio $15.09
Others $3,356 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $664 benefits greater than the costs 74%
Total benefits $11,004
Net program cost ($729)
Benefits minus cost $10,274

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
10 3 118261 0.036 0.054 12 0.028 0.059 17 0.036 0.507
10 2 17445 -0.010 0.100 11 n/a n/a n/a -0.010 0.924
10 1 7539 -0.252 0.092 13 n/a n/a n/a -0.252 0.006
10 1 7539 -0.740 0.343 13 -0.407 0.271 16 -0.740 0.031
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Test scores Labor market earnings associated with test scores $1,364 $3,214 $1,694 $0 $6,272
Externalizing behavior symptoms Criminal justice system $160 $0 $386 $80 $627
K-12 special education $660 $0 $0 $330 $990
Health care associated with externalizing behavior symptoms $1,236 $349 $1,275 $618 $3,479
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($365) ($365)
Totals $3,421 $3,563 $3,356 $664 $11,004
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $207 2013 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($729)
Comparison costs $0 2013 Cost range (+ or -) 10%
The effect in our meta-analysis reflects three years of program participation. Annual per-participant costs are based on a model for the total cost for implementation as described in Blonigen et al. (2008). Application of economic analysis to school-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS) programs. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 10(1), 5-19. The cost estimate assumes district-wide implementation of a positive behavior program in ten schools. We calculated the value of staff time using average Washington State compensation costs (including benefits) as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. To calculate a per-student annual cost, we used the average number of students per school in Washington's prototypical schools formula.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Bradshaw, C.P., Mitchell, M.M., & Leaf, P.J. (2010). Examining the effects of Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on student outcomes: Results from a randomized controlled effectiveness trial in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12(3), 133-148.

Bradshaw, C.P., Waasdorp, T.E., & Leaf, P.J. (2012). Effects of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on child behavior problems. Pediatrics, 130(5), 1136-45.

Gage, N.A., Sugai, G., Lewis, T.J., & Brzozowy, S. (2015). Academic achievement and School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 25(4), 199-209.

Sørlie, M.A., & Ogden, T. (2015). School-Wide Positive Behavior Support-Norway: Impacts on problem behavior and classroom climate. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 3(3), 202-217.

Ward, B., & Gersten, R. (2013). A randomized evaluation of the Safe and Civil Schools model for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at elementary schools in a large urban school district. School Psychology Review, 42(3), 317-333.