The Value of Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring for Early Childhood Learning

The Value of Universal Screening and Progress Monitoring for Early Childhood Learning

A key component of successful response to intervention (RTI) is assessment geared toward preventing, identifying, and qualifying academic difficulties. Tools used for this purpose in the context of RTI include universal screening, formative assessment, informal assessments relevant to the curriculum, and progress monitoring measures. Implementing appropriate data collection procedures and using valid and reliable educational assessments is critical for the successful implementation of RTI at each Tier.

We’ll be blogging regularly on various educational assessment strategies, but this blog focuses on universal screening and progress monitoring; in particular their role in the RTI framework and their value in early childhood learning.

RTI relies on procedures that identify problems early, when they can be addressed with minimal disruption to the student and the classroom. Universal screening is the first step in this process. A brief educational assessment is administered to the entire student population, usually three times a year. The information derived from universal screening provides two useful pieces of information:

1. It determines whether the core curriculum is effective for the majority of students; and

2. It identifies students who are not making adequate progress in the core curriculum.

Typically, around 80% of students respond to the core curriculum. If student performance does not meet the 80% standard as determined by the screening, then the content, scope, and sequence of the curriculum need to be addressed prior to evaluating the learning difficulties of individual students.

Screening data should be organized in a format that allows for the inspection of both group and individual student performance in specific skills. Analyzing group screening data can help administrators determine how to allocate resources to address curriculum or instructional needs.

The National Center on Response to Intervention defines progress monitoring as “a scientifically based practice that is used to assess students’ academic performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction.” Compared to universal screening data, progress monitoring data is collected more frequently, and for fewer students.

The implementation of progress monitoring involves:

> Identifying the student’s current level of performance

> Creating goals for learning that will take place over time

> Monitoring the student’s academic performance on a regular basis, and

> Determining whether interventions are working

Progress monitoring is a critical component of data‐based decision making. The data collected provides documentation that aids educators in choosing the intensity of intervention necessary to help each student reach his or her educational goals.

This data is often used to determine eligibility for special education services. Students who respond to interventions and are able to catch up to grade level peers (as determined by progress monitoring data) are not found eligible for mandated special education services, while those who continue to require intensive interventions may be found eligible. Beyond eligibility determination, progress monitoring data is used more broadly to ensure effective instruction that enables academic growth.

Both universal screening and progress monitoring tools help educators evaluate instruction to ensure that all students achieve their academic potential. Specifically, these tools are used to:

Evaluate the core curriculum and determine if it is effective for the majority of students

Determine whether all students are making adequate progress

Proactively identify students at risk for developing learning problems

Differentiate instruction for individual students

Analyze student growth in response to instructional modifications and determine which interventions are working

Present student performance and progress information in a visual or graphical format that is easy for teachers, specialists and families to interpret and use

Enhance teacher efficacy and motivation by involving teachers in the data collection and intervention process so that they can see how their instructional changes impact growth

In an upcoming blog, we’ll share some insights on guidelines that you can use to select the most appropriate screening and progress monitoring tools. In the interim, if you have questions or thoughts, drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!


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