Building a Better Behavior Management Strategy: Key Insights from EAB’s Student Behavior Survey


Building a Better Behavior Management Strategy

Key Insights from EAB’s Student Behavior Survey

It is no surprise that today’s students are dealing with a lot. Re-entry into an in-person classroom experience has not been easy. Further, students are suffering from an ongoing mental health epidemic and heightening sociopolitical tensions. Consequently, teachers are experiencing a notable increase in disruptive events and negative student behavior with an estimated two and a half hours of lost learning each week.

Prior to the pandemic, school administrators already used proven behavioral management frameworks, like Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) and Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) to promote positive behavior. But, when administrators were forced to navigate a new virtual world, aspects of student care were re-prioritized. Feeding students, providing effective virtual instruction, combating missed learning, and becoming experts on public health became districts’ top concerns.

Now in an in-classroom setting, student behavior has once again risen to the top of district leaders’ priorities. To better understand the state of student behavior in K-12 schools, we conducted a nationwide survey of educators and district leaders, with over 1,100 respondents representing more than 60 school districts. We sought to understand three critical components influencing the conversation on student behavior:

  • The prevalence and type of student behaviors causing concern across districts nationwide.
  • Discrepancies between district and school leadership’s understanding and teachers’ reporting of student behavior.
  • Underlying barriers to creating the conditions required for positive student behavior in schools and classrooms.

Read below for some of the biggest takeaways from EAB’s Student Behavior Survey. To download the full executive brief with details on each of these points, please click here.


Takeaway #1: Unaddressed student behavior contributes to another problem facing districts: low teacher morale.

The connection between student behavior and teacher morale comes as no surprise. The two issues go hand-in-hand – classroom disruptions impact teacher morale which negatively impacts academic instruction, which affects behavior management, and ultimately leaves teachers to question their willingness to stay in the profession. Efforts to support teachers and improve morale remain a top priority for district leaders facing turnover issues and staff shortages. It is crucial for district leaders to better support their students and their teachers, as they are charged with the hard work of helping students’ behavioral, mental, and socio-emotional health.

Takeaway #2: Districts must address four major barriers to improve behavior management.

Since the conversation around student behavior ramped up in 2018, districts have made clear progress on student behavior issues. Yet, our survey uncovered the following barriers that continue to pose a threat to positive student behavior.

  • Teachers continue to feel under-supported and unable to manage increasing student behavior concerns despite investments in support staff (e.g., social workers, school counselors, and psychologists).
  • There is dissonance between administrator messaging and teacher training on how and when to follow behavior management framework(s). Further, district administrators believe teachers receive more behavior support than they do.
  • Teachers perceive a lack of adequate training on how to implement behavior management techniques.
  • Growing pressures on teachers lead them to focus on the academic curriculum over behavior management, as they don’t feel there is enough time for both.

Takeaway #3: School districts are program-rich but impact-poor when it comes to student behavior management.

Districts invested in a wide range of proven behavior management programs, usually employing more than one of these programs to achieve their behavior management goals. Yet, districts focus on the latest and greatest tool rather than training teachers on how to use existing techniques to “solve” the growing impact of behavior concerns. Behavior science tells us that people must understand what to do, be motivated, and be capable to successfully implement a new tactic. Thus, properly equipping teachers to use their already-strong toolbox will help districts build effective student behavior management.

It is evident that student behavior has become a paramount concern for district leaders. By understanding these barriers, your district can develop effective strategies to foster positive student behavior and enhance the overall learning experience.

Ready to find out more?

Read more about these findings and strategies for how to improve student behavior in our full survey report.

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