Universal Screeners

What are universal screeners?

Universal screeners are brief assessments that all students in specific grade levels within APS participate in to help measure growth and determine risk of not meeting end of year grade-level expectations.  Students participate in these assessments up to three times per year.  Currently, APS uses universal screeners in the areas of English Language Arts and mathematics.

Why does APS administer universal screeners?

Universal screeners are used proactively within a tiered system of support.  They are considered an important first step in helping identify student strengths, as well as which students are in need of additional support.  Teachers use universal screening data to make informed decisions about evidence-based interventions and the progress monitoring that should follow.  Universal screeners can also be used to help measure student growth.

Which universal screeners does APS use? 

The table below contains the different universal screening assessments APS uses in the areas of English Language Arts and mathematics.

Universal Screener Grade Level(s) Administered Description of the Universal Screener
Requirement Source
Child Behavior Rating Scale(CBRS) PreKindergarten (Age 4) – Kindergarten The Child Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS), part of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), is a seventeen question rating scale completed by your child’s teachers and used to measure two areas of a student’s social-emotional skills: self-regulation and social skills. Self-regulation focuses on the skills to control one’s own attention, emotions, and behaviors to cope with the demands of the school environment. Social skills include the ability to navigate interactions and relationships with peers and adults successfully. State

Early Mathematics Assessment System (EMAS)

PreKindergarten (Age 4) – Kindergarten

The Early Mathematics Assessment System (EMAS), part of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), measures mathematical thinking including questions in the areas of geometry, patterning, numeracy, and computation. The modules of the assessment include:

Geometry: Shape recognition and shape properties (PreK); shape matching and identification, shape properties, composing shapes (Kindergarten)

Patterning: Recognizing patterns, reproducing patterns, extending patterns, and creating patterns

Numeracy: Counting and cardinality, subitizing, describing changes in sets, and numerals (PreK); counting and cardinality, subitizing, comparing and ordering numbers, composing and decomposing numbers, recognizing and writing numerals, describing sets, ordinal numbers, sharing fairly (Kindergarten)

Computation: Adding and subtracting


Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)

PreKindergarten (Age 4) – Kindergarten

The Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) assessment is an informal screening inventory used across the Commonwealth of Virginia in grades PreK-2.  It is designed to provide teachers with information on your student’s progress in reading. The subtasks are used to screen and identify students in need of additional instruction for foundational reading skills.  For additional information on the PALS assessment, please click on the following link:

Arlington Public School ELA assessment page link

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) 

Kindergarten – Grade 5

The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) assessment is Arlington’s literacy screener used to determine student progress on early literacy skills in grades K-5. This information will allow teachers to know if your student is on track for success in reading or if additional time and small group instruction are needed for early intervention. For additional information on the DIBELS assessment, please click on the following link:

Arlington Public School ELA assessment page link

Math Inventory 3.1 (MI)

Grades 2-8

The Math Inventory 3.1 assessment is a classroom-based, computer-adaptive universal screener and progress monitoring tool that measures mathematics achievement and growth from Kindergarten through Algebra II. The Math Inventory 3.1 is designed to evaluate students’ mathematics performance, monitor their progress, support placement for intervention or extensions, and set goals for instruction.  For additional information on the Math Inventory 3.1, please click on the following link:

Math Inventory 3.1 Website Link

Reading Inventory (RI)

Grades 6-8

The Reading Inventory (RI) is an informal screening process used across the country and will not be graded. It is a low-stakes, classroom-based assessment designed to evaluate students’ reading performance, monitor their reading progress, and support student book selection.  RI is a computer-based, adaptive assessment that takes approximately 20 minutes. During this comprehension assessment, students are asked to read brief passages and answer questions in which words are omitted.  RI provides information that teachers use to target student learning gaps and provide accommodations and interventions. Division

How is universal screener data used within a tiered system of support?

Universal screening is a critical first step in identifying student strengths and determining which students might be at risk of not achieving grade-level expectations by the end of the school year.  These assessments are used proactively within a tiered system of support to guide teachers in their instruction.

Once universal screeners are administered, teachers work in their Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs) to analyze student results, along with other available student data, to determine each student’s unique learning needs. Teachers will use this data to differentiate their core (Tier 1) instruction which all students receive. If a student does not meet the benchmark on a universal screener assessment, additional diagnostic targeting areas of unfinished learning, providing opportunities for extension and acceleration, and planning for targeted small group instruction.

Assessments are given to further identify the student’s needs and determine the area of focus for an intervention (if applicable). Interventions can occur at varying degrees of intensity which often delineates the difference between a Tier 2 and Tier 3 intervention. The intensity of an intervention is determined by student need and the level of risk the student is at in terms of not meeting grade level expectations. Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions are provided in addition to the robust differentiated instruction happening as part of any student’s core (Tier 1) instruction.

If a student requires a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention, parents/guardians will be notified in writing and will receive a detailed copy of their student’s intervention plan. Such details will include a description of the intervention targeting the area of need, intervention start date, length of intervention plan, how many times per week your student will participate in the intervention, staff member responsible for providing the intervention, and a follow-up date to learn how your student is progressing within the intervention.

If parents/guardians have any questions about a student’s assessment results and/or their intervention, please reach out to the student’s classroom and/or content area teacher.  Staff who need support should reach out to ATSS or the appropriate content area office.

How are parents notified that their child is participating in a universal screener?

APS parents receive a notification via School Talk and/or ParentVUE informing them that their student will be participating in a universal screener assessment.  These notifications are sent before the start of the assessment windows, usually in September, January, and April.

The table below provides a link to the specific communication APS parents received notifying them of beginning of year universal screener assessments.

Grade Level(s) Link to Parent Notification Letter for Students Receiving In-Person Instruction Link to Parent Notification Letter for Virtual Learning Program
Pre- Kindergarten PreK Parent Notification Letter PreK Virtual Parent Notification Letter
Kindergarten Kinder Parent Notification Letter Kinder Virtual Parent Notification Letter
Grade 1 Grade 1 Parent Notification Letter Grade 1 Virtual Parent Notification Letter
Grade 2 Grade 2 Parent Notification Letter Grade 2 Virtual Parent Notification Letter
Grades 3-5 Grades 3-5 Parent Notification Letter Grades 3-5 Virtual Parent Notification Letter
Grades 6-8 Grades 6-8 Parent Notification