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  • Writer's pictureJenny Tebbutt

What is a screening assessment, and should I learn how to do this?

Much of our current assessment measures student academic achievement – whether students are at, above, or below their chronological age. More recently we have had new assessment tools like asstle which add to our diagnostic assessments outlining the next steps in students learning.

For first and second wave learners our current assessment tools are great at measuring and informing practice. Looking at the number of third wave learners and at-risk students our traditional assessment and teaching practices have underserved this group.


The first step in understanding these students is to undertake a screening assessment. These screening assessments identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, provide information on the specific characteristics related to their learning difficulties, and identify underpinning cognitive weaknesses that are impacting their learning.


From these screening assessments, we can make recommendations for further specialist assessment. Identify programmes and next step classroom teaching specifically targeted to raising achievement for these students, engage appropriate specialist teaching, train teacher aides, community volunteers, and parents to provide repetition and overlearning to accelerate achievement.


It is useful to note that to date only assessments done by psychologists and specialist educational assessors look at underpinning cognitive weaknesses. We have some computer programmes that look at some aspects of this also. Traditionally we have had RTLB, RTLIt, SENCO, and now LSC that undertake some additional assessment but these do not usually look at underpinning weaknesses. Given that 22% of all school rolls are students who fit the third wave learning model significant student numbers in every school require a screening assessment.


To ensure all students needing a screening assessment can receive one the best approach is that multiple staff – school leaders, specialists, and teachers receive the training to undertake these. Without a change to the assessment and teaching practice for third learners, we are likely to continue the cycle of low literacy/mainstream remediation programmes for these students without significant outcomes in student achievement.


Short course screening training for schools is available and you can contact jtebbutt@xtra.co.nz to arrange training.

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