Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Beth A. Ferri


Behavior, Implementation, School Reform, Special Education, SWPBS, Urban

Subject Categories



This research is a two-year ethnographic case study of a School-wide positive behavior supports (SWPBS) school leadership team, at an urban elementary school in central New York, during their first two years implementing SWPBS. SWPBS is a framework for implementing a school-wide behavior management system that focuses on proactive rather than reactive behavior interventions. SWPBS was recommended in No Child Left Behind and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a positive alternative to punitive discipline policies and strategies and as a tool for reducing office discipline referrals and suspensions, as well as improving academic achievement.

Using in-depth interviews, participant observation, and policy analysis, I investigate the factors that influence an urban elementary school's ability to implement SWPBS, and how factors related to school-based reforms mandated by No Child Left Behind affect an underfunded urban school, serving mostly students of color, as it implements SWPBS. In addition I examine how schools, administrators and teachers negotiate expectations for fidelity of implementation, which is seen as central to successful SWPBS, given the local conditions and the day-to-day realities of one urban school. Although the focus of the study is the implementation of SWPBS in an urban school, the research is cut short when the school closes for poor academic performance and budgetary reasons. The study concludes with an analysis of the school closure due to neoliberal education reform.


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