Universal Screening

Universal Screening For Reading Difficulties

Overview

When Screening for Students at Risk for Dyslexia

According to Joseph Torgesen, Ph.D., Director Emeritus: Florida Center for Reading Research, “we can, using tests currently available, accurately identify students who are likely to struggle with reading starting in preschool or kindergarten. What these tests cannot do this early is to differentiate students with dyslexia from others who will struggle in learning to read for reasons other than dyslexia. The goal of every school should be to provide interventions for all struggling readers that are sufficiently powerful to bring reading skills up to grade level standards. If this is accomplished for all struggling readers, then it will automatically be accomplished for all students with dyslexia.(Florida Center for Reading Research, 2010)

The Purpose of Screening Is to:

  • identify students thought to be at risk,
  • provide students with extra intensive instruction, and
  • conduct additional assessment for specific identification if the students lag behind their peers.

Screening is neither a comprehensive nor a complete process and does not, in and of itself, constitute the diagnostic process. The goal is not to refer “at risk” children to special education but to more effectively address their specific deficits earlier in the general education setting thereby improving overall outcomes (Badian, 2000).

Optimal Characteristics of Universal Screening Assessments:

  • Accessible to all students
  • Classification Accuracy (i.e. accurately classifies as “at risk” "low risk" or “not at risk” for reading failure)
  • Brief and easy to administer, score and interpret
  • Low cost
  • Given to all students
  • Valid *
  • Reliable *
  • Administered 3 times per year

*  Commercial assessments have undergone psychometric analyses to determine reliability & validity. A “teacher-made” assessment cannot be referred to as reliable or valid if it has not been analyzed by a psychometrician.

Universal screening data can help educators evaluate the effectiveness of their core language arts programs as well as identify students at risk for reading failure, particularly if more than 20% of students are not meeting required benchmarks.

Caution

This Universal Screening module is focused on screening for reading difficulties with a particular focus on students at risk for dyslexia. It is not intended to cover screening in other academic areas. In addition, as reading difficulties are closely tied to spelling (encoding) difficulties, focus should be on identifying students “at risk” for both reading and spelling difficulties.

Sources

Badian, N. A., & Badian, N. (2000). Do Preschool Orthographic Skills Contribute to Prediction of Reading. Prediction and Prevention of Reading Failure, 31-56.

National Center on Response to Intervention (2013, January). Screening Briefs Series— Brief #2: Cut Scores. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Response to Intervention.

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