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Universal behavior screening is an imperative part of any multi-tiered framework in schools. And although screening for academic needs relatively is common – proactive screening for behavioral needs is less common. In fact, only 15% of schools in the U.S. consistently use a proactive screening process for behavior. Yet, research has consistently shown the data from behavior screeners provides an opportunity for early intervention and systems-level planning that isn’t available from a referral-based approach.

In other words, behavior screening data offers a proactive alternative to the current system for addressing behavior needs in schools.

Features of Universal Screening for Behavior

The Simple Keys to Effective Universal Screening for Behavior

With clear evidence that behavior screening is an effective way to support at-risk learners, you might be wondering how to get started with a universal behavior screening process in your school or district. To help you, we wanted to pull together a few key aspects of an effective screening system. As you read through these, you’ll notice that they are relatively straight-forward and easy-to-implement.

That’s the best part! Behavior screening isn’t meant to be a complicated or overwhelming process for schools. It is designed to help learners and ease the overwhelm that many systems are facing with their current approach to behavior supports.

Below are three considerations that may help your school or district move towards a proactive approach to universal screening for behavior.

1. Your behavior screening process must be multi-gated.

Any screener may have false positives or false negatives. Make sure that you have multiple gates to your behavioral screening process that can identify students as needs become apparent throughout the year.

Gate one should always be proactive and data-driven. This may include a series of questions for teachers at the beginning and end of each year that rate risk factors and then use statistical analysis to determine students that likely have additional needs.

This first gate should catch most students and allow campus teams to have accurate and impactful discussions about interventions for students or student groups.

2. Universal screening for behavior must connect to school-wide expectations or core values.

Behavioral screening should be contextually relevant to the school environment and take in considerations of age, culture and experience.

Your campus should consider behavior screeners that link back to campus- or district-established core values as an anchor for screening measures. This ensures that your screening process is relevant to your students and their daily environment.

3. Guidelines should be used to help teams effectively use the behavior screening data effectively.

Universal Screening data for behavior is only as good as it is used by schools to make real-time decisions.

Make sure campus teams and campus leaders have clear guidelines for what data to look at, when to look at it and what questions to ask. Providing a written guide can support campus teams in best use of data and ensure more accurate decision-making

Learn more about implementing universal screening for behavior in your school or district

Most schools have adopted universal screening for math andLearn more about implementing universal screening reading and have been using this data as a part of their multi-tiered systems of support decision-making process for years. Unfortunately, behavior has been left behind! It just doesn’t have to be this way.

Adding a behavior screener to your data-based decision making toolbox can be one of the best decisions you make this school year. We’ will be sharing more about best practices for effectively screening and utilizing the data in our free webinar, Universal Screening for Behavior & SEL Supports.

Or click the button to learn more about the features of our universal screening software.


Stacy Morgan
Post by Stacy Morgan
July 2, 2021
Stacy Morgan has over 20 years of experience in education, starting as a high school special education teacher. She received her Behavior Coach Endorsement at the Texas Regional XIII Service Center, then served as a Behavior Support Teacher, District Behavior Specialist, and District Coordinator for MTSS-Behavior. She received her Masters of Science in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University and was a founding member and past president of the Texas Association of Behavior Specialists. Along with Mae Coffman, Stacy co-founded Emergent Tree Education, an organization supporting districts in implementing a comprehensive framework for MTSS-B. She has been a speaker at multiple national- and state-level education conferences on key components of effective and sustainable MTSS implementation.