Discover the Difference: Creating a Safe and Positive Learning Environment

by Diocese of Des Moines | June 2, 2021

Teacher and students

This past school year, St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic School in Ankeny was recognized as a Honor Plus School by the Iowa Department of Education its efforts to enact Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in an effort to foster a safe, positive learning environment. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based framework designed to improve and integrate all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day. The PBIS framework involves three tiers of interventions and support that foster an environment where all students succeed. 

Tier 1 is primary prevention for all students. This tier includes practices and systems that establish a foundation of regular, proactive support while preventing unwanted behaviors. Schools identify the positive behaviors they want to establish schoolwide such as walking quietly in the hallways, throwing away trash in the lunchroom, keeping classrooms clean, etc. Then, students experience positive reinforcement for meeting school-wide expectations and logical consequences for problem behavior. These expectations and universal supports are provided to all students and the majority of students never need to move beyond this tier.

Tier 2 involves more targeted prevention strategies for students who are at risk of developing moreTeacher and students serious problem behaviors. These supports address underlying issues that may be the cause of the negative behavior. For example, a student may have unmet social, emotional or academic needs resulting in disruptive behavior. Tier 2 interventions seek out the hidden causes behind negative behavior and provide the student support in changing those behaviors. Around 10-15 percent of students may need this level of intervention and support. 

Tier 3 involves intensive, individualized support to improve behavioral and academic outcomes for an individual student. Formal assessments are often used to determine a student’s need and to develop an individual support plan addressing both behavioral and academic outcomes.

PBIS schools recognized as Honor Plus, including St. Luke the Evangelist, have demonstrated implementation of Tier 1 features with fidelity. Additionally, these schools offer classroom systems and family/community involvement, and are developing Tier 2 systems to identify students who may benefit from additional support.

“The focus in all of our diocesan schools is to foster safe, positive learning environments,” said Donna Bishop, Superintendent of Schools.  “We are so proud of principal Hade and the St. Luke education team for their efforts in successfully implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.”

Schools that successfully implement PBIS see a reduction in major disciplinary infractions and out-of-school suspensions, increased prosocial behavior, and improved academic achievement among students. The benefits of PBIS are numerous, but the bottom line is that PBIS helps teachers spend less time disciplining students, which increases instructional time resulting in a highly engaged, focused and successful student population. 

"PBIS is a game-changer. Using positive reinforcement helps students feel good about themselves and gives them the confidence to know they are doing the right thing," shared Susan Battani, Kindergarten Teacher at St. Luke the Evangelist.

Nationwide, over 7,500 schools have implemented PBIS to reduce disruptive behaviors through the application of behavioral, social learning, and organizational behavioral principles. Eleven Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools have implemented PBIS in varying degrees. These schools include Holy Family, Holy Trinity, Sacred Heart, St. Anthony, St. Augustin, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Luke the Evangelist in Ankeny, St. Joseph, St. Patrick in Perry, St. Pius X in Urbandale, and St. Theresa.

The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation for students. To learn more about the Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools, visit or email 

Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports. (2021). What is PBIS? Retrieved May 13, 2021 from

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.