What is Universal Screening?
First, we conduct universal screening in order to identify those students who may be at-risk for poor learning outcomes. This is different from a more traditional approach of using a teacher referral process for identifying those students. When we have universal screening data, we can use those data to make that identification. This allows us to identify students earlier so that we can prevent large gaps in learning by providing some extra practice and really intentional additional instruction right away, when learning gaps are really small so that we can prevent larger learning gaps.
The second reason that schools collect universal screening data is to identify needs within their universal tier (or Tier 1) instruction. When we have data for all students in a grade level, we can look to identify for that entire grade level if we have more students who need intervention than we have intervention resources to provide. We can provide whole group intervention, which allows us to save those intervention resources for students who most need them, as well as meet the needs of all students in the grade who may need some additional practice with a skill that we expect they’ve previously learned.
Whole group intervention is a nice way to do something immediately for students. While we may be tackling larger Tier 1 needs through curriculum adoption or alignment or other things that schools are doing, we don’t have to wait until that work is complete to be impacting students and helping students learn and grow today.
Why do we screen all students?
Parents sometimes ask why we collect universal screening with all children. I describe it as something similar to a well-child checkup. We take all children to the doctor regularly in order to identify if they’re on track with their growing and developmental milestones. That way, we can provide some early intervention if needed in order to catch a child up really quickly with some skills that they may need some additional support on and to prevent larger gaps in their development from forming.
In academics, we can do the same thing. So with reading, math, and social-emotional behavior, we can use great indicators of student need to identify students who may need some additional support now to prevent larger learning gaps in the future.
To learn more about universal screening, download our “Universal Screening for Student Needs During COVID” eBook:
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