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Universal screener Starting with MTSS/RTI

Universal screening is the process of assessing all students to identify individuals who are at risk or in need of more individualized support (Hughes & Dexter, 2008). It is similar to screening potential health problems by taking a child’s temperature or monitoring their height and weight.

Universal screening data are used in two ways. First, they are used to determine if core instruction is sufficient for at least 80% of students. A sufficient core is fundamental to the success of RTI/MTSS and cannot be overlooked. Second, they are used to identify students who need additional support. Universal screening procedures generate objective information for parents and educators to proactively determine students whose needs are not being adequately addressed and increase efficiency of resource allocation.

Universal screeners often over-identify individuals as at-risk. Teams then compare universal screening results with multiple sources of data (e.g., benchmark data, class performance, etc.) to confirm or disconfirm at-risk status. The over-identification of students using universal screening is planned and desired to prevent missing students who are in need.

In secondary education, universal screening shifts to individual screening to identify basic skill deficits in students who are struggling in content area classes. In this scenario, data are not used to preemptively identify students in need of support, but to identify underlying skill deficits in a subset of students who have already been identified by content area teachers as needing additional support.


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