What is the role of Universal Screening in Response to Intervention (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 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, formative assessments, 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.