Universal Screening for Behavior: Considerations in the Use of Behavior Rating Scales



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Universal screening for behavior is the use of a measure of social, emotional or behavioral function across an entire population with a goal of preventing future difficulties by intervening with students identified by the screening protocol. Multiple screening procedures have been used, with most including behavior rating scales in the selection process. The purpose of the present research was to investigate two central questions related to the use of universal screeners for behavior in school settings: first, can scores on universal screeners be used as an outcome measure investigating program based interventions, and second, what evidence of teacher bias exists when an external criterion of behavior is included. The purpose of study one was to determine if differences in teacher-rated behavior could be detected between a sample of students that attended public preschool and a nonattending peer group matched for ethnicity, gender, and a gross measure of socioeconomic status (total n= 138). Results of Study One indicated no significant differences between preschool-attending and nonattending groups (p=.61) or between Hispanic and Caucasian participants. Limitations related to sampling and measurement were discussed. In study two, a best-evidence synthesis of peer-reviewed articles investigating teacher bias in behavior ratings of students was conducted. Strict inclusion criteria were chosen to allow for inferential judgment of teacher accuracy. Results of Study Two found a final total of 25 studies of teacher bias that suggested mixed evidence for bias due to student ethnicity or gender and stronger evidence for bias due to expectancies (disability label), teacher culture, unrelated behaviors (halo effects), and teacher training and experience. Limitations, implications for practice and directions of future research were discussed.