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The Importance of Social-Emotional Learning Assessments and How to Use FastBridge for Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring for Social-Emotional Behavior (SEB) Measures

January 19th, 2017

Written By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP and Seth Aldrich, Ph.D.  

Student success is the result of many factors, including:

  • Positive home and school environments.
  • Effective instruction.
  • Regular feedback on performance.

For many years, schools have focused on supporting students’ academic success. Recent efforts include focused attention on the nature of instruction as well as assessments of student performance. 

It is clear that certain academic teaching and assessment practices are connected to better student outcomes1

Similarly, social-emotional learning (SEL) for K-12 students has been demonstrated as essential for educational success.

This guide will discuss what SEL is and how FastBridge can help support students through social-emotional learning assessments. 

Table of Contents

  • Why Are Social-Emotional Learning Programs Important?
  • Research Regarding Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
  • See How One District Gets Whole Child Data by Using Social-Emotional Learning Assessments
  • SAEBRS: The Social-Emotional Learning Assessment Available Through FastBridge’s SEB Suite
  • Questions Addressed Through SAEBRS
  • How Does the SAEBRS Social-Emotional Learning Assessment Work?
  • My Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (mySAEBRS)
  • Interpreting SAEBRS and the Social-Emotional Learning Assessment
  • Social Emotional Learning Progress Monitoring Using Direct Behavior Ratings (DBRs)

Why Are Social-Emotional Learning Programs Important?

Research has shown that students who participated in SEL programs demonstrated an 11-point gain in academic achievement2

Social-emotional learning is also linked to critical academic skills such as homework completion and academic engagement ultimately leading to improved academic outcomes3

In addition, research has shown that SEL programming can reduce:

  • Emotional stress
  • Conduct problems
  • Drug use up to 18 years later4

Social-emotional behavior functioning is nurtured through a combined learning approach that addresses both social-emotional skills and behavior. 

With high-quality social-emotional learning assessments, educators are able to:

  • Understand social-emotional behavior (SEB) needs.
  • Provide whole-child instructional and intervention supports.
  • Integrate SEB data into essential MTSS processes.

Research Regarding Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports

SEL instruction can encompass many facets of students’ daily school routines, including everything from how they get off the bus in the morning to interactions with peers and teachers during the school day. 

An interesting thing about student behavior is that most everyone can agree when the “wrong” behaviors are displayed, but not necessarily when the “right” ones are present.

A notable line of research about student behavior has been conducted by Rob Horner, George Sugai, and others and is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

This research has investigated whether intentionally teaching students the “right” behaviors for each school setting results in students displaying more positive behaviors and fewer “wrong” ones. 

The good news is that research results clearly support teaching students the “right” behaviors to use at school, and when this is done, there are fewer office discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions5.

An additional component of the PBIS research investigated whether it is possible to screen students for possible behavior difficulties so that they can be addressed before a student is removed from the classroom. 

Again, studies have confirmed that universal screening for behavioral difficulties can work to identify the students who might benefit from additional behavioral supports beyond those provided for all students.

See How One District Gets Whole Child Data by Using Social-Emotional Learning Assessments

SAEBRS: The Social-Emotional Learning Assessment Available Through FastBridge’s SEB Suite

Effective implementation of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) includes universal screening and progress monitoring for academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB) difficulties. 

FastBridge provides assessments and data management for both with the Social Academic and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS). 

FastBridge is the first and only K-12 assessment system to include SEB screening and progress monitoring tools as part of one simplified assessment solution. 

FastBridge has three social-emotional behavior (SEB) screening assessments that can be used to identify students who might benefit from additional behavior instruction or support. I use the word “might” here intentionally because all screening data MUST be confirmed with other sources of information about an individual student’s school performance. 

When used in conjunction with other sources of information, these screening tools provide a powerful way to anticipate and support students at risk for school behavior difficulties.

Questions Addressed Through SAEBRS

Before considering any assessment, it is essential to consider the questions being addressed. The SAEBRS social-emotional learning assessment can effectively and efficiently address the following questions:

  • Are programs and practices in our school effective in meeting student needs?
  • Is there a high level of need warranting system-wide intervention, or can social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students be addressed through existing supplemental (e.g., Tier 2) resources?
  • Are there certain groups whose needs are not being addressed?
  • What kind of problems (e.g., externalizing, internalizing, academic enablers) are students experiencing?
  • Who are the students we should prioritize for additional supports?

Addressing these questions helps educators prioritize and target supports (e.g., materials, scheduling, and professional development).

The Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) system is a progress monitoring tool for students showing significant risk whose improvement is essential for learning and positive adjustment in school. The DBR addresses the question:

  • Is the individual student making progress? (i.e., Do I stay the course or make an instructional/intervention adjustment)?

This post will discuss some tips when conducting and interpreting data from (SAEBRS, a universal screener) and Direct Behavior Rating (DBR, a measure used for progress monitoring).

How Does the SAEBRS Social-Emotional Learning Assessment Work?

SAEBRS identifies students grades K-12 who are at-risk for academic, social, and/or emotional behaviors. SAEBRS can also universally screen by class, grade, or school to identify trends that may need class-wide attention. 

SAEBRS is a 19-item online rating scale that a teacher fills out about each student that he or she teaches. Instead of assessing overall SEB risk, the SAEBRS is an effective problem identification and problem analysis tool that helps to better understand student problems falling into the following three subscales:

  • Social (e.g., Arguing, Temper Outbursts, Disruptive Behavior) that might be considered ‘externalizing’ problems)
  • Emotional (e.g., Sadness, Anxiety, Withdrawal, Lack of Resilience) that might be associated with ‘internalizing’ problems)
  • Academic (e.g., Academic Engagement, Production of Acceptable Work, Preparedness)  

The items in each subscale include short sentences related to the student’s typical daily behaviors in that area. The subscale and total scores are organized so that a higher score means a better level of functioning. 

There are four possible ratings for each item:

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Almost always

How to Access SAEBRS

Similar to other academic assessments within FastBridge, teachers access SAEBRS by clicking on an available ‘clock’ and for each student answer 19 items concerning student behavior. 

It takes 90 seconds per student, about 30 – 40 minutes for a class of 20. A teacher can complete the online scale for all students in one sitting or complete some and then return to complete the other students later. 

The scales for all students should be completed within the school’s planned “window” of screening dates. 

The teacher can see each student’s SAEBRS scores immediately after completing the scale for that student. The SAEBRS can be used alone or be accompanied by the mySAEBRS which is the version for students in grades 2 through 12.

Teachers can input individual student notes and intervention supports being provided with corresponding dates. 

My Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (mySAEBRS)

mySAEBRS is a 20 item self-report measure for students in grades 2 – 12 that generally corresponds with SAEBRS items, and like SAEBRS assesses social, emotional and academic risk. mySAEBRS is still in lab form and therefore risk criteria are not yet fully developed. Like the teacher version of the scale, the students complete the mySAEBRS online. 

This can be done by having a teacher or group proctor open and start the scale for each student, or individual student accounts can be set up for students to complete the scale independently.

Each mySAEBRS item is a statement with a four-level rating choice at the bottom of the screen and each item is read aloud to the student using headphones. 

The student clicks on the level that matches his or her agreement with the item. The rating choices are the same as those on the teacher scale but they are presented with both the words and circles that go from empty to fully colored.

Students must click on a rating in order to advance to the next item. At the end of the mySAEBRS there is a screen that tells the student he or she is done. The student does not see his or her score on the screen, but the teacher can see the score as soon as the student completes the entire scale by navigating to the Reports menu in FastBridge.

An important benefit of using the mySAEBRS with the SAEBRS is that the teacher can compare his or her ratings of the students’ social, academic, and emotional skills with each student’s ratings. 

Such information can be helpful whether the teacher and student scores are similar or different. 

  • If they are similar, the teacher will quickly know if there are any areas of concern for the student. 
  • If the teacher and student scores are different, then the teacher can consider why they are not alike and if additional assessment is needed to identify a student’s unique needs.

Interpreting SAEBRS and the Social-Emotional Learning Assessment

FastBridge reporting provides color coding for grade level local norms, as well as exclamation marks (‘!’) to indicate criterion-referenced risk. Regardless of the number of students at true risk, a local norm will always indicate some students as high, medium, and low risk. 

Therefore, criterion risk scores (illustrated in the table below) based on correlations between SAEBRS and other social emotional behavioral risk screeners may be the most accurate way of determining true risk.

The following legend shows risk levels by color:

Risk is indicated based on the following cut scores:

Individual Student Reports

The Individual Student Report provides information at the item as well as the subscale level for SAEBRS and mySAEBRS. 

To interpret this report, it is important to know that some items are “inverted,” that is, better adjustment is indicated by a ‘3’ for both positively and negatively worded items.

The example below illustrates a teacher’s perception of a student’s behavior in comparison to the student self-report. It also illustrates the importance of student self-report for internalizing problems (see the elevated self report for anxiety and worry). 

Teachers sometimes are not aware that students are experiencing anxiety, worry or sadness. For this reason, important information can be gleaned from a mySAEBRS self-report measure, especially at higher grade levels.

Information to Determine Grade Level Risk as Well as Decreasing Risk Over Time

Some schools have many students exhibiting social, emotional and behavioral risks that warrant schoolwide intervention, while other schools may address a smaller number of at-risk students through supplemental tiered supports. 

The FastBridge Impact Report helps to identify the number of students deemed at risk (based on criterion cut scores). The Impact Report is also helpful in determining whether risk is changing over the school year (effectiveness of Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports). 

Risk can be further disaggregated through demographic filtering. The report below shows a school that went from 100% of students deemed at risk in the fall to 33% at risk in the winter. 

In this case we can see that not all students were assessed in the fall (perhaps only at-risk students were assessed) while more students were assessed in the winter (a true universal screening). 

It is best to use SAEBRS with all students as a true universal screening to avoid such confusion.

Social Emotional Learning Progress Monitoring Using Direct Behavior Ratings (DBRs)

The DBR system was developed from an intervention known as the Daily Teacher Behavior Report Cards (TBRC). Despite this origin, it is important to note a difference between the DBR and TDBRCs: 

  • TDBRCs are best used as an intervention – We would want teachers to shape behavior with TDBRCs. However, if students aren’t successful they will not likely buy-in to their use. 

Therefore, the kind of behavior that would be deemed ‘successful’ (warranting a sticker, smiley, numeric rating) on a TDBRC might not be the same early in the school year compared to later as student expectations increase. 

  • The DBR, on the other hand, is an assessment based on teacher perception of student behavior. 

These perceptions are important. Although the DBR is subjective (like any rating scale), ratings on a scale of 1 – 10 can be anchored to estimates of frequency such as time on task (e.g., 1=10%, 6 = 60% etc.) for both stability and sensitivity. 

The DBR also grew from research findings about the high number of systematic direct observations (SDOs) required to get reliable data just for behaviors like time on task. Progress monitoring with SDO by an external observer might not be feasible. 

The DBR has the advantage of assessing multiple student behaviors deemed important by those working with them.

Establishing Baseline and Setting Goals

The user interface for DBR progress monitoring within FastBridge is shown below. Baseline (‘Start’) and goal scores are set depending on the type of behavior.

In this example, the following goals can be see within the progress monitoring set up illustrated below:

Student Behaviors Current Goal
Behaviors to increase Jeremy is academically engaged 60% of the time Jeremy will be academically engaged 60% of the time
Behaviors to decrease Jeremy exhibits disruptive behavior 40% of the time Jeremy will exhibit disruptive behavior 5% of the time

 

Entering DBR Data

Once the behaviors, start scores, and goals are chosen, teachers can log in at predetermined times of the day or week and rate student behavior on a 1 to 10 scale. Some behaviors include an intensity rating. 

Notes for a given time period, as well as intervention changes can be documented in the DBR recording page as well. 

It is advised to choose behaviors that can be rated easily on a 1 – 10 scale such as ‘Timely Completion of Work.’ Some behaviors such as ‘crying’ and ‘stealing’ may be difficult to rate on a 1-10 scale.

DBR Progress Monitoring Reports

With FastBridge’s progress monitoring reports, educators can see trends over time, such as whether or not positive behaviors (in this case, academic engagement and timely completion of work) are improving towards the predetermined goals, and if negative behaviors (disruptive behavior and withdrawal) decline with further intervention.

 

Conclusion

FastBridge offers three behavior screening assessments that can be used to identify any students who might need additional instruction in order to meet school expectations and life skills goals. 

The SAEBRS, mySAEBRS, and DevMilestones are online rating scales that are completed by either the teacher or student in order to evaluate each student’s current behavior skills compared to other students in the same setting. 

After completing any of these ratings, teachers are encouraged to meet together in grade-level or content-area teams to review and evaluate student needs.

The FastBridge SEB measures can be used as part of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) to improve all students’ behaviors. 

An important companion to the FastBridge SEB measures is the research about implementing a PBIS system. The PBIS model includes universal behavior screening and instruction at Tier 1, followed by increasingly intensive interventions at Tiers 2 and 3. 

To assist with monitoring those students who participate in behavior interventions, FastBridge offers the Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) system as a progress monitoring tool.

References

  1. Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.  New York: Routledge.
  2. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta‐analysis of school‐based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432.
  3. Farrington, C. A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T. S., Johnson, D. W., & Beechum, N. O. (2012). Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance–A Critical Literature Review. Consortium on Chicago School Research. 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
  4. Taylor, R. D., Oberle, E., Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2017). Promoting positive youth development through school‐based social and emotional learning interventions: A meta‐analysis of follow‐up effects. Child Development, 88(4), 1156-1171.
  5. Horner, R., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Todd, A., Nakasato, J., & Esperanza, J.  (2009). A Randomized control trial of school-wide positive behavior support in elementary schools.  Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11, 113-144.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, OSEP Technical Assistance Center. (2017). Measures. 

Dr. Rachel Brown is the Senior Academic Officer at FastBridge. She previously served as Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Southern Maine. Her research focuses on effective academic assessment and intervention, including multi-tier systems of support, and she has authored several books on Response to Intervention and MTSS.

Seth Aldrich is a certified bilingual school psychologist, as well as a NY State licensed psychologist.  He works as a school psychologist for the Homer Central School District, and also consults with school districts concerning Response to Intervention (RTI) for academic and behavioral difficulties.  Seth consults with educators to utilize FastBridge as well as other RTI/MTSS assessments for data base decision-making within a tiered problem solving process.  He is a consortium member with the New York State RTI Technical Assistance Center, and works primarily with English language learners (ELLs) as well as family court involved youth in his private practice.  Seth’s most recent publication is the book: RTI for English Language Learners: Understanding, Differentiation and Support.

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