A Guide to Universal Screening

This is a step typically taken at the start of a school year by officials to identify which students are far below average and are on the verge of academic failure. While some of the assessments are undertaken by school district employees, others are carried out by independent education assessors.

The assessments are short measures, and each of them is designed for a particular academic domain like reading fluency, reading comprehension, math computation, and math reasoning. Additionally, behavioral screenings can be utilized to identify the students who’re at risk in social-emotional development.

When it comes to universal screening for reading, the huge majority of students are tested in two core skills – fluency and basic comprehension.

Reading fluency – It’s typically assessed with a one-minute oral reading assessment.

Reading comprehension – It’s commonly assessed using a cloze passage, where some words are removed, and students are given a set of choices to pick the right ones and fill in the blanks.

Early learners are commonly assessed on letter naming and letter-sound fluency. Here, students are given a page of letters and asked to tell or name the corresponding sound for every letter. These students might also need to complete a decoding test using nonsense words and segmenting and blending assessments.

Mathematics gets slightly trickier in universal screening. Math skills are usually broken down into two major categories – math applications and computational fluency.

Math applications – This is where students bounce around between different topics solving basic problems.

Computational fluency – For younger learners, computational fluency assessments emphasize basic skills such as adding and subtracting. For others, multiplication and division are generally added to the assessments.

Universal screening can be conducted using either the traditional paper-pencil method or computerized universal screening tools. One major advantage of the latter is that the entire group can complete the assessments together and be scored immediately, generating instant data for the assessor.

There’re several universal screening tools available that school districts can purchase. Free options are also available that can be used to gather snapshot data for the class. However, the advantage of using paid tools is that they usually analyze the data and generate reports to guide the next steps.

It’s important to understand that universal screening isn’t a diagnostic assessment. Universal screening is conducted to identify the students who might require additional support, and diagnostic assessments are meant for figuring out how to help them in the best possible manner.

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