The Washington Academy Therapeutic Environment

Washington Academy leads the way in special education innovation. Each year since 2010, our program has developed a new approach to help support student growth academically and socially/emotionally. 

This year is no different. Starting in September, students were introduced to the FIRST School Based Economy. 

  • Students Can Earn School Dollars Weekly

  • School Dollars have real "VALUE"

  • School Dollar value fluctuates baased on inflationary factors

What Do Students Learn?

  1. How to Earn Dollars?
  2. How to Make Good Money Decisions?
  3. Financial Literacy
  4. Budgeting
  5. Accounting
  6. When you run out of money, how to earn more?

Positive Behavior Support (also known as P.B.S.)

What is P.B.S.?

P.B.S. is a psychologically research-based support program for people who struggle with appropirate choices or healthy choices. P.B.S. works with any age and is used with children and adults who want to "CHANGE" a human behavior. It is also called Behavior Modification.

Why use P.B.S. in schools?

The easy answer is that it helps support students to make better decisions and be more successful in school. Students who get better grades, build self-confidence and understand how to function in a school culture have a higher percentage % of graduation, more $ earning power, and are more successful in life.

What is different about Washington Academy's P.B.S. program and all other Out-Of-District Programs?

The only difference is that our school, program and staff are more trained, specailized and able to handle, manage, de-escalate and positively encourage students to "do better." That may sound like a simple goal, but it requires the highest level of dedication to professional practice. 

What most other schools are able to accomplish is de-escalate and manage. It's important to not minimize that achievement and Washington Academy recognizes the hard work and dedication of the Staff from all NJ Private Schools. But Washington Academy goes one step further, which is why in 2012, Washington Academy started the "TRANSITION PROGRAM TO LRE"

The Transition Program to LRE helps students that are currently enrolled in all other NJ Private Schools make the transition back to a public or charter school within 12 to 18 months of enrollment. And since 2012, 45% of the students who enrolled through this program successfully made that transtion. There are many factors as to why the other 55% of the students could not transition within 18 months, one of them being Senior Year of High School and the student earned a diploma and enrolled in college or had employment in their future. This program is the most successful program in NJ, partly because Washington Academy is the only school to have a developed transition program to LRE.

PBS Research 

There are four main tenets of P.B.S.

  1. Identifying the target behavior
  2. Developing proactive intervention strategies, 
  3. Tracking data, and 
  4. Providing reinforcing supports.

According to Edward G. Carr, 1999 and Robert Horner and Carr in 1997, P.B.S. plans include multiple, interwoven strategies and generally prescribe 1) proactive strategies for changing the environment so triggering events are removed 2) teaching new skills that replace problem behaviors, 3) eliminating or minimizing natural rewards for problem behavior and 4) maximizing clear rewards for appropriate behavior. It is important according to Carr and Horner that emphasizing improving the overall quality of life (ie. relationships, activities, health) are integrated into the supports.

That is the psychological theory behind Washington Academy’s highly regarded and specialized behavior support program.

Helping students understand that the "original" behavior is no longer rewarded, but if they want to succeed in their internal motivation they have to modify their behavior to meet the new Rewards incentives is at the core of the education at Washington Academy. This takes time, and patience, encouragement and understanding are critical during this process.

It is not easy for students to make change in their lives, especially when they have been rewarded over years of reinforcement that Yelling, Screaming, Throwing, Cursing, Aggression, Leaving the Classroom has been met with "You No Longer Have to do Any School Work."

And we all know that the student recieved a poor grade, but for students who exhibit this level of inappropriate behavior grades are not self-motivating. 

The Tier System

Washington Academy implements the most comprehensive and intensive P.B.S. program in New Jersey. The amount of work and training that it takes to administer this level of P.B.S. support is monumental. Students have an opportunity to earn both Tickets and Points in the WA P,B,S. plan. What they earn tickets and points for differ based on age level, and also specific IEP target behaviors.

Based on the total number # of points the student has earned there are 3 Tiers of Rewards (Reinforcers)

Based on the total number of Tickets the student has earned he/she can earn School Dollars

Both Tiers work in conjunction with each other, syncing together to show students a better path to success. 

Typically it takes a student between 3-6 months to fully understand and integrate into the P.B.S. program. From there, it takes between 6-12 months for the student to significantly modify his/her behavior. 

And the last stage is supporting the student's consistency in the new more pro-social and apporpirate behavior. 

In summary, Washington Academy helps each student make a huge step forward in school to no longer rely on inappropriate behaviors to get what they want, but stop and think and decide what else could I do?


Washington Academy is very proud of thousands of students that attended our program and celebrate each and every one of them. For highlights of some of our graduates, please visit our GRADUATES page.