Understanding and using your child’s universal screening assessments to help guide academic achievement.
By Christy Borman, M.A.
Schools must collect data to determine students’ strengths, deficits, and progress. One source of data is called a universal screener. These assessments vary from school to school, but commonly used universal screeners include NWEA MAP, Istation, i-Ready, STAR, and DIBELS. These benchmark assessments provide parents with a snapshot of their child’s performance when compared to other students his or her age, as well as help guide conversations when you suspect that your child may be struggling.
What Are Universal Screening Assessments?
Universal screening assessments are designed to be an efficient measure to assess reading and math skill development. Typically administered three times a year, these tests identify students who may be at-risk for academic difficulty. The school can use the information to create targeted, skill-based intervention groups, while also evaluating the effectiveness of their core instructional programs. Another benefit for analyzing universal screening data is to determine students’ growth over time.
Most universal screening assessments provide a standardized score that places a student’s performance in a range from significantly above grade-level expectations to significantly below grade-level expectations. Often a percentile score is provided that can correlate to standardized assessments to identify students who do not meet the benchmark set by the school district.
What if your child scores below the grade-level expectation?
Don’t panic. There are many questions to consider. Is this score an outlier to your child’s typical performance? How does he or she perform on classroom tests, reading running records, or EOGs? If the universal screening score is not consistent with most of his or her other assessments, maybe there were distractions within the testing environment or maybe he or she didn’t feel well and didn’t complete the items to the best of his or her ability. If, however, your child consistently performs poorly on classroom tests, struggles to complete homework independently, and has frequently scored below grade level expectations on the universal screening assessments given previously, this would be the time to request a teacher conference.
During the meeting, look at the information you have through test results, work samples, and observations to pinpoint specific skill deficits that may need to be addressed. A specific intervention plan needs to be established that details who will provide the instruction, what instructional strategies will be implemented, where the instruction will take place, and the frequency and duration of the intervention. Schools need to provide evidence-based interventions that have been proven effective.
More information about evidence-based instruction can be found here:
What can parents do to support their child’s progress?
Repetition and practice are often important in the development of essential academic skills, so ask the teacher what you can do to support your child’s progress at home. It could be as simple as reading word cards each night or practicing multiplication facts in the car each day. Parents who wish to engage a tutor outside of school should provide consent for the teacher to speak with the tutor to collaborate so that the child‘s instruction is consistent and focused on common goals.
Parents can also set up a consultation with one of the Educational Specialists at Child and Family Development. We can analyze your child’s universal screening results, provide guidance on navigating supports within the school and community, and develop a proactive approach to getting your child the help he or she needs.
Additionally, parents may also consider having their child complete a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation. An evaluation can be an insightful tool to understand why your child is not meeting grade-level benchmark standards. A high quality evaluation serves as a guide for highlighting strengths, identifying areas of challenge and determining optimal learning environments.
Please contact an educational specialist at Child and Family Development for additional information.test