Using Universal and Diagnostic Screens in Setting SLO Goals

Response to Intervention (RTI) Screening Used in SLO Goals

Universal and diagnostic screening in education ican help in developing Teacher SLO Goals. payaercan Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Teacher evaluation programs require that teachers set student learning objectives (SLOs) using data that can help target instruction for the academic school year. Teachers should use multiple sources of data in developing their SLOs in order to demonstrate student growth over an academic school year.

One source of data for teachers can be found in the data that is collected from screening in Response to Intervention (RTI) programs. RTI is a multi-tier approach that allows educators to  identify and then support students with specific learning and behavior needs. The RTI process begins with the use of a universal screen  of all students. 

universal screen is an assessment which has already been determined to be a reliable assessment of a specific skill. Universal screens are designated as those assessments that are:

  • Accessible to all students
  • Given to all students
  • Skill and concept specific 
  • Easy to administer and score
  • Quick turn-around time (1-3 days) of aggregated and disaggregated data to classroom teachers
  • Repeatable
  • Reliable (Note: A “teacher-made” assessment cannot be referred to as reliable if it has not been analyzed by a psychometrician)

Examples of universal screens used in education at the secondary level are: AcuityAIMSweb, Classworks, FAST, IOWAs, and STAR; some states, such as NY, use the DRP as well.

Once the data has been reviewed from universal screening, educators may want to use a diagnostic screen to measure students' understanding of a subject area or skills base after a universal screen has revealed specific areas of strength or weakness for a student.  The characteristics of diagnostic assessments are that they are:

  • Given to selected students 
  • Reliable  
  • Valid (Note: A “teacher-made” assessment cannot be referred to as reliable or valid if it has not been analyzed by a psychometrician)

Examples of diagnostic assessments include Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC-2); Children's Depression Inventory, Connors Rating Scales. NOTE: Some results may not be shared for the purposes of developing SLOs for the classroom teachers, but may be used for education specialists such as school social worker or psychologist.

The data from universal screens and diagnostic screens are critical components of the RTI programs in schools, and this data, when available, can help in refining developing teacher SLOs.

Of course, teachers may create their own benchmark assessments to act as a baseline. These benchmark assessments are used frequently, but because they are often "teacher created" they should be cross-referenced with universal and diagnostic screens if available. Teacher created materials are imperfect or may even be invalid if students underperform or if skills are incorrectly accessed.

At the secondary level, teachers may look at quantitative data (expressed in numbers, measurable) from prior years:

  • Standardized test results (State, SAT, ACT, NAEP);
  • Report card grades (letter value or percentage);
  • Attendance records.

There may be qualitative data (expressed in description, observable) also in the form of recorded observations by teacher(s) and support staff or in prior report card comments.This form of comparison through multiple measures that are qualitative and quantitative is called triangulation:

Triangulation is the process of using multiple data sources to address a particular question or problem and using evidence from each source to illuminate or temper evidence from the other sources.

In triangulating data to develop a SLO, a teacher make an informed decision on the student learning objectives that to help improve either an individual student or group of students' performance. 

 All of these forms of assessment including those from the prior year, which may include universal or diagnostic screens, can provide teachers with the data to begin to develop well-informed SLO goals at the beginning of the school year in order to target instruction for multi-tiered student improvement for the entire academic year.