What is RTI for mathematics?
Page 3: Universal Screening
The administration of an assessment to every student in a classroom, universal screening is used to determine which of those students are performing at grade level in mathematics and which of them are struggling. When they administer universal screening measures, schools or districts need to consider a number of important factors: the frequency of the screening, the selection of the screening measure, and the criteria used to determine which students are in need of intervention.
Frequency of the Screening
The universal screening is administered between one and three times per year, depending on district policy and the availability of resources. Whether given once a year or more often, its purpose changes slightly depending on the time at which it is administered, as is outlined in the table below.
|Beginning of Year
|Middle of Year
|End of Year
For Your Information
- In the case of kindergarten and 1st-grade students, teachers might find it beneficial to delay the administration of universal screening measures until November. Doing so allows students ample time to acclimate to school, allows teachers to provide initial instruction, and reduces the possibility that students will be misidentified as struggling with mathematics.
- By the time students enter middle and high school, the intervention needs of most students have already been established. However, it is still important to conduct universal screenings to identify other students who might be struggling, including students who have moved from another district or state and students who begin to struggle later in school.
Selecting a Measure
The current research supports curriculum based measurement (CBM), sometimes referred to as general outcome measurement (GOM), as a reliable universal screening tool to identify students who may struggle with mathematics. Universal screening measures can consist of a computation probe, a concepts and applications probe, or both. Examples of each can be found below.
|Computation Probe||Concepts and Applications Probe*|
|Measures students’ procedural knowledge (e.g., their ability to add fractions).||Assesses conceptual understanding of mathematics or students’ ability to apply mathematics knowledge (e.g., to make change from a purchase).|
* No valid middle or high school concepts and applications probes are available at this time.
As an alternative to GOM, existing data (e.g., year-end tests, standardized achievement test scores) can be used for students in the 6th grade and above to identify those who might be struggling. Regardless of the universal screening measure a school chooses, that measure must:
- Align with state mathematics standards for a given grade
- Be feasible to administer given expense, time, and training constraints
- Accurately identify struggling students
For Your Information
The National Center on Intensive Intervention provides a tools chart that presents information about commercially available progress monitoring probes that have been reviewed by a panel of experts and rated on key features. Click here to use this tool chart.
There is a lack of available validated measures to assess the mathematics skills of high school students. Brad Witzel highlights the need for better universal screening assessments at the high school level and offers suggestions to confirm universal screening data (time: 1:10).
Administering a Measure
Teachers should schedule the administration of the universal screening assessment to fit their schedules and their classrooms’ needs. In the early grades—kindergarten and 1st grade—individual administration is required when assessing skills such as oral counting, identifying numbers, or identifying the larger number in a pair. For students in the 2nd grade and beyond, mathematics probes can generally be administered in a group setting. The amount of time it takes to administer a probe depends on the grade level and the type of measure in question. Computation probes can typically be administered in two to ten minutes, whereas concepts and application probes take five to ten minutes to complete. When available, computer-based screening measures are recommended. Regardless of the type of assessment used, alternate forms are administered if multiple screenings are conducted across the year (e.g., at the beginning, middle, and end of the year).
David Allsopp, PhD
Assistant Dean for Education and Partnerships
University of South Florida
Criteria for Identifying Struggling Students
The criteria for determining which students are experiencing mathematics difficulties will depend on what measure is selected. Commercially available universal screening measures use benchmarks (or “cut points”). Students who score below these benchmarks may require additional intervention. Note: The administration and scoring of CBM probes is discussed in detail later in the Module.
Lynn Fuchs, PhD
Dunn Family Chair in Psycheducational Assessment
Department of Special Education