Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Examining the Stability, Accuracy, and Predictive Validity of Behavioral-Emotional Screening Scores across Time to Inform Repeated Screening Procedures

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Examining the Stability, Accuracy, and Predictive Validity of Behavioral-Emotional Screening Scores across Time to Inform Repeated Screening Procedures

Article excerpt

Universal screening has been touted as a critical step to improve data-based decision making regarding how to best serve the behavioral and emotional needs of children (Kamphaus, Reynolds, & Dever, 2014). Tilly (2008, p. 31) stated, "universal screening must become a part of business as usual in our schools," and, in response, more schools are focusing on prevention and early intervention efforts to assist children with behavioral and emotional risk. The focus on universal screening to inform subsequent service delivery may be particularly important during early childhood. Young children with behavioral or emotional problems who are not identified or treated have been found to experience a range of stable educational, social, and mental health problems including poor literacy outcomes (Bulotsky-Shearer, Dominguez, Bell, Rouse, & Fantuzzo, 2010), peer rejection (Wood, Cowan, & Baker, 2002), and later mental health diagnoses (Harvey, Youngwirth, Thakar, & Errazuriz, 2000).

Preschool has been recognized as an optimal time to provide needed and effective behavioral and emotional supports to children (McCabe & Altamura, 2011). Specifically, prevention and intervention activities can be implemented at an early stage to disrupt maladaptive trajectories and reduce the likelihood of more serious or severe behavioral and emotional problems (Severson, Walker, Hope-Doolittle, Kratochwill, & Gresham, 2007). The effectiveness of early emotional and behavioral interventions is well documented and can lead to higher rates of positive functioning, with these benefits extending across time (Webster-Stratton & Reid, 2003). Additionally, there are significant differences between children who do and do not receive early intervention services, with those receiving services experiencing higher rates of social and emotional competence (Brophy-Herb, Lee, Nievar, & Stollak, 2007).

The problem of young children being unidentified and untreated necessitates an increased focus on early identification of emotional and behavioral risk (Levitt, Saka, Romanelli, & Hoagwood, 2007). As a first step, universal screening, in which every child in a grade, school, or district is systematically assessed to determine level of risk, is an optimal method for early identification. The effectiveness of resulting prevention and intervention services depends on the ability to accurately identify children through screening procedures (Ward & Rothlisberg, 2011). Broadly speaking, universal screening data can inform decision making regarding which students are referred for more comprehensive assessment and subsequently receive early intervention services.

Although the concept of universal screening for behavioral and emotional risk is gaining momentum, the practice lags behind the theory, with only one out of eight schools actually conducting universal screening efforts (Bruhn, Woods-Groves, & Huddle, 2014). Many reasons for this theory-to-practice gap exist, including the need for more practical information regarding available assessment tools (Glover & Albers, 2007), confusion surrounding the use of multiple-gating approaches (Dowdy & Kim, 2012; Walker, Small, Severson, Seeley, & Feil, 2014), and a lack of clarity around the necessary frequency of screening occasions in schools (Dever, Dowdy, Raines, & Carnazzo, 2015; Dowdy et al., 2014; Walker et al., 2014).

Slow adoption of universal screening practices in schools may also be due to the significant undertaking necessitated by this task, which requires multiple personnel and steps including selecting screening instruments, obtaining consent, administering the screening, scoring and analyzing the screening data to inform decisions, and evaluating its effectiveness (Moore et al., 2015). Due to the effort, expense, and time required, there is a premium placed on screening efficiency. With an overarching goal of efficiency, schools are in need of procedural recommendations to inform how many times, or even if, it is necessary to conduct repeated screenings in a year to accurately identify students in need of additional assessment or intervention. …

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