Better behavior on school buses has positive carryover effect

First Student and Wisconsin school district collaborate to reduce student behavioral incidents and discipline referrals
By: | Issue: October, 2017 | Case Study
August 23, 2017

Improving student behavior and reducing discipline referrals is important to Andrew Place, the principal of Riverview Elementary School in Wausau, Wisconsin. Place estimates that for every student behavioral incident and discipline referral he investigates, 15 minutes of instructional time is lost.

Place says school buses represent the third-highest location for behavior incidents and discipline referrals in the Wausau School District. During the 2013-14 school year, the district and its school bus provider, First Student, began working to implement a PBIS training program. First Student brought in a regional PBIS instructor to train its drivers and staff. Wausau would provide ongoing training at future safety meetings, and First Student helped Wausau form a transportation committee made up of school administrators, PBIS building coaches and teachers, First Student’s location manager, a driver, and a bus monitor to foster better communication. Both Wausau and First Student quickly noticed the similarities between First Student’s positive behavior reinforcement program, “I Care, We Care” and PBIS.

The transportation committee also came up with a vision statement, which makes “a commitment to excellence in safely transporting students, encouraging respectful and caring behavior while supporting District Shared Key Interests.” It also encourages “collaboration between First Student and Wausau in order to proactively communicate with mutual respect.” Place says communication is better because “there’s a direct line of communication” between all parties through the committee meetings.

“Drivers really started buying into it, and they started sharing stories about how things were going much more positively on the bus” Place says. “It almost seemed like it was contagious.”

High-tech tools

First Student also offers FirstACTS (Active Conduct Tracking System), a web-based communication tool that helps manage the process of tracking student conduct on school buses. FirstACTS emails notifications and reminders to parents, school staff and First Student officials, and tracks student histories and resolutions. The program closes the loop on any incident, and the analysis pulled from the program can be used constructively to inform policies and procedures that help prevent future incidents on-board and in the classroom.

Measurable changes

The return on investment is encouraging and quantifiable. Place says the number of behavior incidents on district buses has been decreasing, from 860 during the 2015-16 school year down to 584 in 2016-17, a reduction of 32 percent. At his elementary school, Place says the number of behavior incidents dropped from 31 in December 2015 to just one in December 2016, a positive carryover effect from improving school bus behavior.

“The bottom line is that an improved bus ride experience equals more instructional time for students” Place says.

For more information, visit