Many concepts and portions of the text below have been taken from Ci3T developed by Kathleen Lane and Wendy Oakes; and, Best Practices in Universal Screening for Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes: Implementation Guide (Romer, N., von der Embse, N., Eklund, K., Kilgus, S., Perales, K., Splett, J. W., Sudlo, S., Wheeler, D., (2020). Best Practices in Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Screening: An Implementation Guide. Version 2.0. – https://www.pbis.org/resource/best-practices-in-universal-social-emotional-and-behavioral-screening-an-implementation-guide
Within multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS), educators regularly engage in data-informed decision-making processes to provide students with positive, productive, and safe learning environments. A key feature of tiered supports is accurate identification of students who may need more intensive interventions. Screening data used in conjunction with other school data may help educators meet the needs of students at the right time and with the right amount of support. At the supervisory union or district level, screening data can also be used to make systems-wide decisions about resources needed to address needs across the schools. The challenge is to assure that the right forms of data are linked to appropriate uses and purposes for assessment. Summaries of the purposes and uses of types tools are provided in the 2019 VTmtss Field Guide.
What is Social, Emotional, Behavioral (SEB) Screening?
“SEB screening involves assessment of early signs of psychological problems, as well as the presence of resilience factors and indicators of well-being. Assessing both psychological problems and well-being permits identification of students most in need of intervention because these students are experiencing SEB problems and have limited skills, assets, and supports to effectively manage and cope. Further, assessing for complete mental health affords the opportunity for school teams to not only evaluate student SEB risk, but also SEB skills and assets aligned with universal, Tier 1 programming.” (Retrieved from smhcollaborative.org/universalscreening –
We know that a reciprocal relationship exists between achievement and behavior. Academic performance has consistently been shown to be inversely related to problem behavior that begins early in a child’s development (Brier, 1995; McEvoy & Welker, 2000). Approximately 20% of students struggle with mental health issues. Most students do not access mental health services outside of school. This has left schools to function as a de facto setting for identifying students who may benefit from early intervention. If identification of SEB problems can occur early, schools are well suited to provide early intervention and prevention opportunities before poor outcomes begin to transpire. Supervisory Unions, Districts, and Schools who choose to conduct screening to detect problems early are able to plan positive instructional experiences to help mitigate concerns.
Systematic Screeners for Social, Emotional, Behavioral Risks and Strengths:
Systematic screeners, or psychometrically validated instruments, assess: (a) social risk or resilience factors, (b) emotional problems or well-being, and (c) behavioral problems. Systematic screeners can detect and monitor signals that indicate whether a child may be delayed in aspects of social-emotional development, such as communication, autonomy, affect, and interaction with people. They can also detect students with initial signs of internalizing (e.g., extremely shy, anxious, and/or socially withdrawn) and externalizing (e.g., noncompliant, aggressive, and/or defiant) behavior patterns.
Universal screening involves education staff at a minimum, answering questions about specific social, emotional behaviors for all students. This is usually in the form of a checklist or questionnaire that can take educators from 15 minutes to 45 minutes to complete, depending on the screening tool. Through this process, several students may be identified as having a higher than average risk level, and may need a further level of screening to better understand needs.
When to screen? All students should be screened by educators three times a year – Fall, Winter and Spring. At least 4-6 weeks into the school year, educators should know students well enough to conduct the first screening. Research shows that screening conducted early in the fall can predict both academic and social outcomes by the end of the school year. Continuing to screen two more times per year will help educators to see whether their students are on track. Screening data along with other SEL data and academic data, should be reviewed immediately following each screening in the fall, winter, and spring.
A note about Systematic Screening during the COVID-19 era: While many schools are committed to SEL curriculum and screening, it is anticipated that students will come back to school confronted with greater challenges following over a year of mixed learning opportunities. Since all systematic screeners are not normed to a pandemic, the utility and accuracy of screening during COVID are not known.
Selected Systematic Screening Tools: https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/5d8393cfa70460bf54f37f21_Screener%20Tools%20Table.pdf
Other Screeners and Surveys:
Many educators use less formal tools to assess social/emotional learning, well-being, and mental and behavioral health needs. These types of assessments can help educators adjust how they interact with students and to quickly connect students with supports and interventions, if needed. There are many research-based social emotional learning assessments for students that help students share their feelings and needs and enable educators to respond.
Surveys can be used to elevate the voices and perspectives of students, families, educators, and other adults to provide their perceptions of the extent to which schools are offering SEB supports across the tiers as well as their perceptions of their students’ overall well-being and social, emotional, behavioral risks and strengths. They can also be used to find out the hopes and concerns of stakeholders while communicating the school’s desire to incorporate their perspectives into decision-making.
Beyond conducting surveys, additional input can be provided by holding focus groups with staff, students, families, and community partners. When reaching out to families and students, use home languages and inclusive strategies for those who have limited access to technology. Also consider alternative ways to reach all families, such as through churches, social service agencies, neighborhood groups, social media, and other community connections.
Types of Surveys and Screeners:
School climate surveys typically yield data that are aggregated across groups to indicate a given school’s safety and SEB health as perceived by a variety of stakeholders (student, staff, parents) and can provide another source of important data especially in regard to environmental and contextual factors. A suite of school climate surveys developed for PBIS can be found here.
Stakeholder Satisfaction and Input Surveys (SSIS) are available for students, staff, and families. Developed for PBIS schools, these surveys are tools to get voice and agency among stakeholders about their extent of satisfaction with communication, respect, and behavioral supports at the school. To view the SSIS for families, go here; for students, go here; for staff, go here. For access to online versions of these surveys, please contact Sherry Schoenberg.
Online well-being surveys can provide a vehicle to help students share their feelings and needs to enable educators to respond. One example is Closegap. Through a fun, daily check-in, and a library of self-guided activities, Closegap offers students an opportunity to practice emotional awareness, understanding, and regulation.
Screening for Connections between Adults and Students: Relationship Mapping is a process for adults to complete to make sure that every student is known well by at least one adult. Using this strategy, school staff identify youth who do not currently have positive connections with school adults during a private meeting. Those students are then paired with a supportive adult mentor within the school.
Educator Self-Assessments can provide school leaders and staff with greater awareness of personal and professional challenges that can lead to self-care strategies. This assessment, while developed in response to COVID, may be a useful tool.
Selected Informal Surveys and Screeners: https://www.pbisvermont.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/SELScreeners-and-Surveys1-1.docx
Several systems processes and procedures need to be in place in order to effectively allocate the resources, supports, and interventions necessary for conducting screening and providing appropriate responses. The most important consideration is that, if you screen, you must have a plan to intervene at all tiers. Other key considerations are listed below and are included in this Screening Considerations Assessment:
- Identifying SEL (including screening) as a priority for the school and SU/SD.
- Ensuring available financial and people resources to support SEL screening.
- Having a strong teaming infrastructure to plan and install screening. School teams include, at minimum, representation from administration, teachers, parents, and behaviorally trained staff. Mental health health personnel also play an important role in providing a focused mental health lens in the planning and review process.
- Developing supporting ongoing parent and youth involvement and leadership.
- Having an existing SEL curriculum at the Universal level that is informed by research.
- Ensuring that Tier 1 interventions are being implemented with fidelity.
- Establishing a process for selecting a screener that is accurate (norm-based to your population), cost-effective, feasible, useful, and contextually appropriate.
- Identifying and addressing ethical and legal considerations through policies/procedures. This includes considerations around consent, confidentiality, recognizing the limits of screening as well as the level of risks that can be uncovered from screening.
- Ensuring a clear process for identifying, assessing, analyzing, and interpreting data for those students who are struggling. These students need careful monitoring and ongoing consideration from the Educational Support Team in the school or district which uses the data to make decisions about instruction, intervention, and possible placements (2019 VTmtss Field Guide).
- Having the capacity to follow-up with interventions and supports and/or to refer students who have needs that exceed the capacity of the school.
- Having a plan for “roll-out.” This includes:
- A process for training teachers
- A process for informing families
- A timeline for screening to occur
- A process and timeline for reviewing and evaluating data
- A process for intervening
- A commitment to continued inquiry as outlined in this document.
Best Practices in Universal Screening for Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes: Implementation Guide (Romer, N., von der Embse, N., Eklund, K., Kilgus, S., Perales, K., Splett, J. W., Sudlo, S., Wheeler, D., (2020). Best Practices in Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Screening: An Implementation Guide. Version 2.0. Retrieved from smhcollaborative.org/universalscreening
Universal Screening – Systematic Screening to Shape Instruction: Lessons Learned & Practicalities – Kathleen Lynne Lane, Mark Matthew Buckman & Rebecca Sherod, University of Kansas; Lisa Powers, University of Missouri; Wendy Peia Oakes, Arizona State University; Katie Scarlett Lane, Vanderbilt University https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/5eb435206705b2123f3c6b82_Universal%20Screening%202019%20RDQ%20Brief2.pdf
Tips for Communicating with your Community about Systematic Screening: What does your District and School Leadership Team Need to Know? Rebecca Sherod, University of Kansas, Wendy Peia Oakes, Arizona State University, Katie Scarlett Lane, Vanderbilt University, and Kathleen Lynne Lane, University of Kansas – https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/5eb435206705b2123f3c6b82_Universal%20Screening%202019%20RDQ%20Brief2.pdf
Vermont Agency of Education 2019 VTmtss Field Guide (page 43)
Systematic Screening Tools at www.ci3t.org
Systematic Screenings of Behavior to Support Instruction: From Preschool to High School – Kathleen Lynne Lane, et.al. http://www.amazon.com/Systematic-Screenings-Behavior-Support-Instruction/dp/1462503365 Systematic Screening for Behavior in Current K-12 Instructional Settings – Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports – https://assets-global.website-files.com/5d3725188825e071f1670246/5fcff6599dd5f866a4ccc505_Systematic%20Screening%20for%20Behavior.pdf