Single Measure and Gated Screening Approaches for Identifying Students At-Risk for Academic Problems: Implications for Sensitivity and Specificity

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Educators need recommendations to improve screening practices without limiting students’ instructional opportunities. Repurposing previous years’ state test scores has shown promise in identifying at-risk students within multitiered systems of support. However, researchers have not directly compared the diagnostic accuracy of previous years’ state test scores with data collected during fall screening periods to identify at-risk students. In addition, the benefit of using previous state test scores in conjunction with data from a separate measure to identify at-risk students has not been explored. The diagnostic accuracy of 3 types of screening approaches were tested to predict proficiency on end-of-year high-stakes assessments: state test data obtained during the previous year, data from a different measure administered in the fall, and both measures combined (i.e., a gated model). Extant reading and math data (N = 2,996) from 10 schools in the Midwest were analyzed. When used alone, both measures yielded similar sensitivity and specificity values. The gated model yielded superior specificity values compared with using either measure alone, at the expense of sensitivity. Implications, limitations, and ideas for future research are discussed.

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