Part 1: using Universal Screening Data to Evaluate Learning Loss
by Dr. Stephanie Stollar on June 17, 2021
Universal screening offers a valuable opportunity for the early identification of student needs—and its power lies not in data collection, but in data use. Because screening assessments that use minimum benchmark goals are predictive of future reading outcomes, briefly checking in on essential early literacy skills three times a year can inform decisions about continuing or changing instruction. In other words, knowing what students need today can translate into instructional actions that change their futures.
End-of-year screening data can be used to quantify learning loss and plan instructional action in several ways, including the following:
1. Identify the need for summer school
End-of-year screening data facilitates the identification of students whose scores predict that they are unlikely to be skilled readers in the future unless they receive instructional support. With the help of American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds, instructional support is expected to be offered to many more students this year—including summer intervention, which should focus on the skills students are lacking at end-of-year screening. For example, grade 2 students who cannot read CVC words at the end of the year, could receive explicit summer tutoring in the phonics and decoding skills they have not yet mastered, using a program such as Sound Partners.
2. Plan for next school year
End-of-year screening data can help ensure alignment to student needs, as knowing the percent of students who were at risk according to end-of-year screening will inform plans for classroom reading instruction and evidence-based interventions aimed at remediating learning loss. Grade-level teams can meet with the team of teachers who will receive their students next school year to plan regular classroom reading instruction that matches incoming students’ needs, and evidence-based comprehensive after-school programming may be mapped out as supplemental support. For example, if most grade 3 students cannot read grade-level text accurately, explicit decoding may be the focus of their classroom reading instruction as they begin grade 4. Reviewing this information at year end gives the grade 4 team time to maximize the match between classroom reading instruction and the needs of the incoming students, using a program such as REWARDS®.
3. Evaluate progress across the current school year
End-of-year screening data is a valuable tool with which to evaluate the overall health and effectiveness of the instructional system. Note that classroom reading instruction is considered “generally effective” when it supports at least 80% of students to meet grade-level expectations, and it is regarded as “well-matched” to student needs when the percentage of students who are at risk decreases across beginning-, middle- and end-of-year screenings. Grade-level teams can use the percentage change over time to determine whether they should maintain or adjust classroom reading instruction for next year. For example, if the percentage of kindergarten students at risk increased across the current school year, the grade 1 team may plan for additional differentiation of core reading instruction next school year to support explicit teaching of foundational skills with a program such as Phonics and Spelling Through Phoneme-Grapheme Mapping.
What is universal screening?
Universal screening is a powerful component of a school-wide assessment system for evaluating and eliminating learning loss. The brief, standardized indicators of the essential early literacy skills that predict important future reading outcomes can be used to identify specific skill deficits, as well as to plan next steps for instruction. Now more than ever, it is critical to act on student data to improve reading outcomes. Acadience® Reading K–6 is one example of a universal screening assessment that provides data for instructional planning; learn more about it at https://www.voyagersopris.com/product/assessment/acadience-reading/overview.
Characteristics of universal screening assessments
Universal screening assessments that can be effectively used to identify the need for summer school, plan for next school year, and evaluate progress across the current school year should have the following characteristics:
- Brief: They should be efficient and take as little time away from instruction as possible.
- Predictive: They should include benchmark goals that articulate the level of skill today that predicts reading health in the future.
- Indicators: They should function as indicators of the essential early literacy skills that research has concluded are necessary for reading.
- Linked to instruction: They should measure skills that link directly to classroom reading instruction.
- Standardized, reliable, and valid: They should be reliable and valid measures given under standardized conditions to allow comparison of each student to other students, as well as to a benchmark goal.
Dr. Stephanie Stollar is the founder of Stephanie Stollar Consulting LLC and the creator of The Reading Science Academy.
Dr. Stollar is the former vice president for professional learning at Acadience Learning Inc. She is an adjunct professor in the online reading science program at Mount St. Joseph University, and a founding member of a national alliance for supporting reading science in higher education. Dr. Stollar has worked as an educational consultant, a school psychologist, and an assistant professor in the school psychology program at the University of South Florida, and has provided professional development for teachers for the past 25 years. Dr. Stollar is a co-author of Acadience® Reading K–6, Acadience® Reading Survey, and Acadience® Reading Diagnostic. She has conducted research in the areas of assessment, early intervention, and collaborative problem solving. As a member of the board for the Innovations in Education Consortium, she collaboratively plans the annual MTSS Innovations in Education Conference.