What is universal screening, and why does it matter?

Universal screening is the process of analyzing academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB) data about all students in a class, grade, school, or district to identify which students need additional support to meet learning goals. Data from universal screeners helps educators identify which students are at risk and monitor whether students are equitably growing at needed rates. Universal screeners are:


Given in the same format across all students


Compare students’ performance and growth rates to their peers


Identify students at risk of poor learning outcomes

Brief and accurate

Provide accurate data in only 5–30 minutes of testing

As a key component of a comprehensive assessment system and multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), screening data helps drive instructional decisions from the classroom to the district office—while saving dollars, testing time, and professional development hours.

Early intervention

Early intervention

Align Tier 1 intensifications to universal needs and provide targeted, early interventions for students at risk before small gaps become larger.

Instructional decisions

Instructional decisions

Align classwide instruction and personalized practice to the skills students need to succeed.



Identify students demonstrating characteristics of dyslexia to guide supports that help ensure all students become successful readers.

Predictive growth

Predictive growth

Monitor whether students are on track to reach end-of-year benchmarks.

Advancing equity

Advancing equity

Identify areas where universal practices are and are not supporting all learners to drive adjustments that change trajectories.

Gifted and Talented

Gifted and Talented

Ensure equitable access to gifted and talented programming by identifying students performing at high national norms as part of the identification process.

Special Education

Special Education

Improve the effectiveness of goal-setting to close learning gaps in special education populations.

Program evaluation

Program evaluation

Drive continuous improvement and resource allocation around student needs over time.

Universal screeners provide powerful data for accelerating learning, advancing equity, and meeting whole child needs. Yet after educators have screened all students, the next question is: “Now what?”

Unlike other options, Renaissance offers universal screeners that take the guesswork out of the right instructional next steps to take for the class, small groups, and individual students.

With prescriptive instruction and intervention recommendations aligned to students’ specific skill gaps—and connections to Renaissance’s practice and instruction products—every teacher knows how each of their students is performing and how to help them progress.

Learn more about our universal screening tools below, or request a demo.

Meet Renaissance’s universal screeners

Discover research-based, valid, reliable universal screeners that provide trustworthy data about student needs and take the guesswork out of the specific next steps to take.

Star Assessments

Star Math (K–12) | Star Reading (K–12) | Star Early Literacy (Pre-K–3) | Star CBM Reading (K–6) | Star CBM Lectura (K–6) | Star CBM Math (K–3) | Star Spanish (K–12)

Identify the skills students are ready to learn, drive instruction and practice, and measure student growth

Key Benefits:

  • Universal screening (and progress monitoring) in both English and Spanish at no extra cost
  • Includes both computer-adaptive tests (CATs) and curriculum-based measures (CBMs), so you can choose the assessments that work for you
  • Linking studies prove alignment to state standards assessments, so you can accurately predict how students will perform on your state EOY exam
  • Aligned to Renaissance’s learning progressions and integrated with Renaissance’s practice and instruction products to seamlessly connect screening with targeted skill-building
  • Research-based, brief, valid, and reliable

Learn more about Star Assessments


Reading, Math, and Social-Emotional Behavior (K–12)

Screening and progress monitoring across math, reading, and social-emotional behavior (SEB) with built-in intervention recommendations

  • Screening (and progress monitoring) for both academic and SEB needs with just one subscription
  • Combines computer-adaptive tests (CATs) and curriculum-based measures (CBMs) for a unique approach to identifying students’ specific skill gaps
  • Provides prescriptive whole class instruction recommendations with easy-to-follow lesson plans and intervention recommendations for small groups and individual students
  • Integrated with Renaissance’s practice and instruction products to connect screening with targeted skill-building
  • Gain the ability to select and evaluate the effectiveness of SEL curriculum with CASEL-aligned, valid, and reliable SEB screening
  • Research-based, brief, valid, and reliable

Learn more about FastBridge


Early literacy, early numeracy, and social-emotional development (Pre-K)

Put every child on the pathway to kindergarten readiness

  • Screening for both academic and social-emotional needs, so you can take a whole child approach to guiding preschool development
  • Appropriate for students 1 or 2 years in advance of kindergarten
  • Early literacy assessments available in both English and Spanish
  • Research-based, brief, valid, and reliable

Learn more about myIGDIs

Skill Screeners

Like universal screeners, skill screeners are given to all students to identify which learners need additional assistance in order to meet learning goals. Whereas universal screeners assess a range of skills, skill screeners focus solely on essential skills, like phonics.

As a result, they’re able to yield rich instructional information. Skill screening data dramatically enhances the skill data provided by universal screeners and enables teachers to target instruction in a specific skill domain with increased precision and clarity. Skill screeners are especially important in foundational areas of early learning, such as phonics.

Learn more about Star Phonics

Universal screening FAQs

Learn more about universal screening and why it’s essential to student success

What is universal screening?

Universal screening is the process of gathering academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB) data about all students in a class, grade, school, or district to identify which students need additional support to meet student learning goals.

Educators use universal screening data to determine the effectiveness of Tier 1 core instruction and identify students who need additional instruction or intervention. Leaders and teams use universal screening data to aid in program evaluation and to support resource allocation decisions.

Universal screening is an essential component of a comprehensive assessment system and an effective multi-tiered system of support (MTSS).

What are examples of universal screening?

Universal screening involves using data to identify individual students who may need additional support, as well as identify when a class or an entire grade level needs additional support.

Tools used for universal screening vary, but districts commonly use a consistent tool for reading and math across K–12 and often have a universal screening tool for SEB. These assessment tools can be used for universal screening:

What can universal screening measure?

Universal screening measures all students’ current skills as compared to grade level learning goals. It also helps to identify individual students who might need additional instruction or enrichment and if so, what type.

Universal screening is also a type of interim assessment that provides teachers with information about a student’s current risk for meeting grade level expectations. By conducting screening three to five times a year, teachers have multiple opportunities to adjust instruction in relation to students’ needs.

For students who are lacking key skills, teachers can use screening data alongside other information—such as data from Star Phonics, a phonics screening and skill diagnostic assessment solution—to determine what type of additional instruction makes sense.

How often is universal screening conducted?

It’s important that screening occurs periodically throughout the school year to regularly assess student performance. In this regard, screening provides data that helps teachers adjust instruction during the school year.

Students do not always progress at the same rate. For example, students who perform adequately at the fall screening may show decreased growth at the winter screening period, indicating a need for instructional changes.

We recommend conducting screening three to five times per year (e.g., at least seasonally in fall, winter, and spring).

How can universal screening data be used?

Teachers can use universal screening data to compare a child’s academic and/or SEB results with school-based expectations for learning and growth.

Universal screening is similar to the screenings that physicians conduct routinely. Just as blood pressure or body temperature checks are brief, easy, reliable indicators of overall health, universal screenings indicate the overall “health” of a school, class, or individual child.

For those whose screening scores indicate a need, the teacher can gather additional information, just as a physician does.

What are the most important features of a universal screening tool?

When selecting an assessment tool for universal screening, educators should be careful to select a tool that is:

  • Developed through research and evidence-based
  • Standardized, reliable, and valid
  • Usable and feasible
  • Appropriate for use in school settings
Can universal screening be accomplished during times of remote learning?

Yes, universal screening can be accomplished with remote learning. The primary benefit to conducting universal screening during remote learning is having continuous data about all students for the school year. Such data can help to inform student learning needs when students return to in-person learning.

When possible, we recommend using computer-administered assessments during an online session so that the teacher can observe students and answer any questions. Doing so will allow for ongoing data collection with limited effects from a new testing environment, and they are the easiest and most reliable assessments for both students and teachers to use.

Still have questions about universal screening? Get in touch with an expert.

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