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George Sugai, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

George Sugai, Ph.D. George Sugai, Ph.D.

Professor, Educational Psychology & Special Education, Department of Education | University of Connecticut


George Sugai, Ph.D., is an expert in classroom behavior.


Professor George Sugai received his M.Ed. in 1974 and Ph.D. in 1980 at the University of Washington. His primary areas of interests are positive behavior support (PBS), systems change, personnel preparation, behavioral disorders, social skills instruction, behavioral consultation, behavioral assessment procedures, applied behavior analysis (ABA), and strategies for effective school-wide, classroom, and individual behavior management. Currently at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Sugai is Carole J. Neag Endowed Chair in Behavior Disorders and professor with tenure. He has taught graduate level special education courses in applied behavior analysis, emotional or behavioral disorders, behavioral consultation, social skills instruction, and classroom/behavior management. He is Research Scientist in the Center for Behavioral Education and Research in the Neag School of Education, which focuses on research and outreach activities related to promoting effective academic and social behavior supports. Sugai has presented at numerous local, national, and international conferences and professional meetings, and has served as advisor to the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services. His international work includes projects in Jamaica, Cayman Islands, New Zealand, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, and Canada, and invitations to present in Japan, England, Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.

As Project Director or Co-Director of major training or research grants totaling over $60 million, Dr. Sugai has ample experience in the implementation, operation, and supervision of grant-related projects. Dr. Sugai has a noteworthy publi­cation record in refereed journals. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles, numerous monographs, and five college textbooks on effective teaching practices and ABA. Dr. Sugai’s research emphasizes effective applications of ABA principles and PBS procedures to problems found in educational contexts. The subject populations include students with severe challenging behavior, students with at-risk behaviors, and students described as having severely challenging behaviors. His recent work has focused on school-wide student populations related to school climate, culture, and leadership.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Classroom Discipline Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Classroom Behavior Positive Behavioral Supports Applied Behavior Analysis

Education (3)

University of Washington: Ph.D. 1980

University of Washington: M.A. 1974

University of California, Santa Barbara: B.A. 1973

Affiliations (4)

  • Association for Positive Behavior Supports, Member
  • Association for Behavior Analysis, Member
  • Council for Exceptional Children, Member
  • Council for Children with Behavior Disorders, Member






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Media Appearances (6)

At Betsy DeVos’s federal school safety commission meeting, lessons from first-graders on friendships and fist bumps

Washington Post  print


“You’ve got to focus on teaching social skills just like you would academics,” said George Sugai, a University of Connecticut professor of special education who studies Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

He said schools that have faithfully and consistently implemented the program — which includes interventions for students who misbehave — have seen results. If schools implement the strategy, “you’re likely to see decreases in referrals for major infractions. You’re likely to see decreases in bullying,” Sugai said.

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Zeroing in on Zero Tolerance

National Public Radio  radio

Zero tolerance policies send a strong message to students but at what cost? This hour, we examine how over time, these policies have led to suspensions and expulsions for minor issues -- and can have drastic effects on a student’s future.

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The Brutal Years

New York Times  print

She describes a headmaster who was able to transform the climate at his school largely through charisma, will and the methodology proposed by George Sugai, who believes that positive rewards given to students for positive social skills may be just as effective as punishment for those who are out of line.

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How to Stop Bullying

Scientific American  print

PBIS is all about strengthening the connections between students and adults, for starters by building calm and order. Schools start by looking closely at the number of and reasons for referrals to the principal’s office—a key indicator of the health of a school, according to George Sugai, one of the framework’s creators. The idea is to figure out why exactly kids are getting referred for discipline and also where the bad behavior occurs. With the answers in hand, schools can address “hot spots” and then teachers can focus on students’ positive behavior—the ordinary things they do right during the day.PBIS wasn’t designed to address bullying directly, but a 2012 study by a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins found that teachers in PBIS schools reported less bullying and peer rejection than teachers in schools without PBIS.

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In efforts against bullying, some school districts stand out

Boston Globe  print

George Sugai, co-director of the National Center of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and a professor at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education, said research shows that “if classrooms and schools are positive, safe, and caring, [the] likelihood of bullying decreases.”

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Studies Flag Potential Downside to Inclusion

Education Week  print

Some researchers have recently found that young children without disabilities are negatively affected when they're educated in the same classrooms as students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

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Articles (4)

Implementing Effective Educational Practices at Scales of Social Importance Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

Robert H. Horner, George Sugai, and Dean L. Fixsen


Implementing evidence-based practices is becoming both a goal and standard across medicine, psychology, and education. Initial successes, however, are now leading to questions about how successful demonstrations may be expanded to scales of social importance. In this paper, we review lessons learned about scaling up evidence-based practices gleaned from our experience implementing school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) across more than 23,000 schools in the USA. We draw heavily from the work of Flay et al. (Prev Sci 6:151–175, 2005. doi:10.1007/s11121-005-5553-y) related to defining evidence-based practices, the significant contributions from the emerging “implementation science” movement (Fixsen et al. in Implementation research: a synthesis of the literature, University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231), Tampa 2005), and guidance we have received from teachers, family members, students, and administrators who have adopted PBIS.

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Assessing Teachers’ Behavior Support Skills Teacher Education and Special Education

Diane Myers, George Sugai, Brandi Simonsen, Jennifer Freeman


In this article, the authors provide an overview of empirically supported practices and techniques for monitoring and assessing teachers’ use of effective behavior support practices. They focus on how teacher preparation programs, administrators, and supervising teachers provide pre-service teachers with helpful feedback on their teaching performance. In addition, they describe a behaviorally based conceptual model for assessing teachers’ fluent and sustained use of empirically supported classroom behavior support practices and provide recommendations for enhancing the preparation of pre-service educators.

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Classroom Management With Exceptional Learners Teaching Exceptional Children

Diane Myers, Jennifer Freeman, Brandi Simonsen, and George Sugai


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MTSS Coaching: Bridging Knowing to Doing Theory into Practice

Jennifer Freeman, George Sugai, Brandi Simonsen, and Susannah Everett


Improving educator effectiveness and school functioning requires continuous attention to practice selection, implementation fidelity, and progress monitoring, especially in the context of systemic school reform efforts. As such, supporting professional development must be targeted, comprehensive, efficient, and relevant. In particular, coaching must be established to bridge the implementation gap from knowing-to-doing. To increase the precision with which we develop and use coaching supports, we describe how (a) coaching is conceptualized, described, and operationalized within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework using a behavioral approach; (b) professional development activities are considered from a teaching and phases of learning perspective; and (c) critical coaching components are implemented from within a multi-tiered support systems framework. Existing and future research about effective coaching is also considered.

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