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Social, Emotional, And Behavior Risk Screening

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate students’ social, emotional, and behavioral risk by using a universal screening tool within a multitiered system of supports. Identifying students who are at risk has become of vital importance. Still, although, it is critical, many schools have not implemented universal screening procedures, instead rely on more responsive methods of student identification. A common concern of universal screening includes the potential for the over-identification of at-risk students and the exhaustion of already limited school resources. This research proposal discusses the importance of universal screening for all students for social, emotional, and behavioral risks. Through research, the results suggest screening is an essential tool for helping school personnel come up with preventative measures for addressing student barriers to learning.


Social and emotional development during the early childhood is an essential foundation for a child’s success (Raver, 2002). It has been reported by the National Academy of Sciences that 60% of children go into school with the cognitive skills that are necessary to be successful. Still, it has been reported that only 40% have the necessary social-emotional skills to succeed in kindergarten (Raver, 2002). Research has undoubtedly shown that students’ emotional and behavioral adjustment is significant for their chances of early school achievement. Educational systems tend to put importance of cognitive and academic readiness yet, ignore the value of a child’s social-emotional growth (Raver, 2002). When students have a postive outlook on their social and emotional being, they can develop positive relationships with others. Students who know how to manage their feelings are more likely to be ready to learn. A significant amount of research reveals that the early years are very influential in later development (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). For some young children, the existence of challenging behavior is a significant hindrance to their success in early childhood settings and even systematic social and academic problems throughout school (Carter, Briggs-Gowan, & Davis, 2004). While presenting some challenging behaviors during rapid childhood development is normal, some children display challenging behaviors that are more long-lasting and result in considerable difficulties for the student. Therefore, it is vital to have focused on early intervention services available to them and their families to help prevent long-term problems (Gorey, 2001). The critical step towards recognition of such issues and the prevention of more significant effects is to perform screenings across developmental areas to help identify those children that would benefit from early and specialized intervention strategies. Universal screening enables teachers, school counselors, and others provide along with families to promptly identify problems and implement plans that are likely to reduce the chance of long-term detrimental results, including severe persistent challenging behaviors. Screening does not only helps identify social and emotional needs but also allows counselors, teachers, and other service providers better understand the child.

Review of Literature

As students range from kindergarten until the twelfth grade, they come to school with a variety of academic, social, and behavioral abilities. As students attain an abundance of skills, students are prepared to meet the many demands and challenges that lie ahead for a successful educational experience. However, many students struggle in one or more of these areas during their educational careers. Research has indicated that although educators feel confident in meeting the needs of their students academically, they do not feel adequately prepared to meet their social and emotional needs (Christofferson & Sullivan, 2015).

Early identification of at risk-students represents a significant prevention method. One of the central means by which schools can engage in early prevention is through universal screening. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004) supports the use of universal screening in schools, indicating it represents a proactive method of detecting students who require additional supports to be successful. Universal screening for social-emotional and behavioral risk is on the rise, with the percentage of schools engaging in the practice doubling over the last decade (Kilgus, Taylor, & Embse, 2016). According to the study done by Kilgus, Bowman, Crystal, & Taylor (2017), it states that ‘despite promising advances in the science of school-based universal screening, it is rare to find schools that use universal screening to detect students at risk for behavioral concerns’ (p.246). Therefore, when conducting my research, I needed to determine how important it is that students be screened for social, emotional, and behavioral risks. According to research done by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identified ‘social and emotional factors’ as the most powerful influence over students’ achievement in schools (CASEL, 2012).

A section in the article stated that ‘students are routinely screened for physical health issues (e.g., hearing and vision). However, emotional and behavioral health issues are generally detected after they have already emerged. It is time for that to change’ (CASEL, 2012). Students who walk through the doors of their school have more to them than just their backpacks. Each child brings other factors of life that shape their learning and development. These influences range from family issues, health concerns, culture, and learning abilities. All these factors can impact their mental health, which includes their social, emotional, and behavioral beings. ‘As education professionals, school staff need to understand the role mental health plays in the school context because it is so central to our students’ social, emotional, and academic success’ (CASEL, 2012). According to research done by Magellan Health insights (2013), approximately less than 20% of children and adolescents with a diagnosable mental health issue receive the treatment that they need. If we had screening done within schools, then we would be able to diagnose students sooner and help them gain the help and supports that they need. Thus, the importance of universal screening for social, emotional, and behavioral risk. To best help support the use of universal screening, according to the study done by Kilgus, Eklund, von der Embse, Taylor, & Sims (2016), schools are increasingly adopting a multitiered system of support (MTSS) as the foundation of their social-emotional and behavioral delivery models. MTSS models represent a prevention-orientation to addressing student needs, with a foundation of ecological theory, data-based decision making, and problem-solving logic (p. 21). Through this system, it is focused on supporting the ‘whole child’ and is a support to promote positive student academic and behavioral outcomes and is driven from data based on SAEBRS (Ziomek-Daigle, Goodman-Scott, Cavin, & Donohue, 2016). ‘MTSS consists of a continuum of three tiers of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary’ (Kilgus and, 2016). Based on the scores of their SAEBRS assessment will determine which of the three tiers that the students will receive interventions in. The CASEL (2012) article stated that Universal screening for these concerns, mainly when implemented within a multitiered model of behavioral support, may help these students receive earlier services than they otherwise would and may prevent the need for more intensive special education or therapeutic services.


Participants and Setting

The sample of students used will be all students from each class, K-5. Although the purpose of this study will be focused on elementary students, SAEBRS can be used throughout grades K-12. The questionnaire will be provided to students during school hours using an iPad, laptop, or Chromebook and, if necessary, paper and pencil and later entered in the computer system by a counselor. The universal screener will be used two times throughout the school year. The questionnaire will need to be done by the end of the first month and then again filled out before spring break by both student and teacher.


SAEBRS. SAEBRS is a brief instrument supported by research for use in universal screening for behavioral and emotional risk. Students and Teachers will complete the SAEBRS using a 4-point Likert scale (0 = never, one = sometimes, 2 = often, and 3 = almost always) to indicate how frequently the student displays certain behaviors within a month. Scores are then totaled within each subscale and combined to produce a score. Higher scores are symptomatic of more adaptive functioning. Screening may be conducted up to five times per year with individual students or across a classroom, grade level, school, or district (SAEBRS, 2019). For this study, the screening will be conducted twice throughout the school year. Testing is completed in roughly one to three minutes per student using an iPad or Chromebook. If needed, the questionnaire can be used with paper and pencil and entered in by the counselor. The amount of time required for the screening depends on the student’s understanding and comprehension of the questions asked.

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The Behavioral and Emotional Screening System is a 19-item universal screener. Scores will be developed from four areas (Internalizing Problems, Externalizing Problems, Academic problems, and Adaptive Skills), and are combined to generate one score suggestive of behavioral and emotional risk. Students and teachers complete behavioral and emotional screening items using a 4-point Likert scale. Item scores will then be totaled to produce a total raw score, which is converted to a T score (M =50, SD= 10). Higher scores are indicative of more concerns involving general behavioral and emotional performance. T scores will be categorized into three levels of risk. Studies have supported Behavioral and Emotional screener with reliability, validity, and diagnostic accuracy (Jenkins et al., 2014).

Data analysis

SAEBRS analytical accuracy will be assessed using a curve analysis. Within the curve analysis, two sets of statistics can be calculated. The first set is linked to the area under the curve statistics. The Curve analyses will be used when defining the degree to which the predictor measure creates similar rates of sensitivity between groups as compared with a reliable means of the same trend, which then produces the area under the curve.

Two sets of statistics will be used to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of scores from each SAEBRS scale relative to the emotional and behavioral assessment total score. The first of these are statistics that are defined as the probability that a randomly selected truly at-risk student (according to the Emotional and Behavioral assessment total score) would have a lower score on the SAEBRS than a randomly chosen not at-risk student. The second set of statistic diagnostic accuracy indicators are probability statistics, as well as additional statistics resulting from the short-term probability standards. Descriptors used on the scale will determine the need for each score. Students who are identified as at-risk will be indeed at risk, positive values that the students identified as at-risk defined by SAEBRS who are genuinely at risk. Negative values are the number of students identified as not at risk determined by the SAEBRS, who was indeed not at risk. These scores will help determine those students who genuinely need interventions and supports.

There are several variables within the study. The dependent variable will be the student’s social, emotional, and behavioral risk. The independent variable would be the student’s understanding of the questionnaire and the student’s emotional and behavioral state. If the student has a difficult time understanding and comprehending the 19- items presented and if the student is unable to answer the questions based on their emotional and behavioral state can alter the information. The questionnaire will help counselors and teachers determine the students who are at risk for social, emotional, and behavioral risks. Once this is determined, proper interventions can be set in place to help support the child to their needs.


To determine the results of the SAEBRS screener, it is based on a curve analysis. The data below the curve analysis (positive values) are those who are at risk, and those who are within the curve analysis (negative values) are those students who are not truly at risk. Once the results are based on the 19-item questionnaire that the students and the teachers have both taken, then it will determine if the student is a risk or within the normal range. Based on each student’s results, the counselor will meet with them and discuss possible interventions and supports to help meet the needs of the students socially, emotionally, and behaviorally through the MTSS system.


This study would be essential to identify those students who are in the school systems who would need supports but are often undetected due to the students not showing the visible signs of social, emotional, and behavioral problems. While counselors often work with the students who do have apparent signs of struggle, this tool will help identify other students who need supports. Through counselors overwhelming schedules and working with the students who need interventions, the students who do not show apparent signs of struggle are missed. This leads to the problems of students not receiving mental health interventions who need them, leading to a more significant problem of mental health issues. Through using SAEBRS, we can screen each student for social, emotional, and behavior risk and start to provide them with supports so that their education and well-being can thrive.

Limitations of this study would be the support of the educators. Not all educators understand the importance of mental health; therefore, they do not support universal screening. Educators need to be educated and understand why every student should be screened for social, emotional, and behavioral risks. It needs to be made a priority in schools. Another limitation of this study would be access to the use of technology. Some schools do not have many IPADs, Chromebooks, or laptops for students to use for screening students. Lastly, another limitation of the study would be the student’s comprehension and honestly on the assessments. If the students understand why they are being assessed, they may not answer honestly, and this would change the results of the data evaluated. Also, if students do not have good reading comprehension and are not able to understand the test can alter the results.

For future research on this subject, it would be beneficial to look at other screening tools. The study could be repeated with another screening tool and use that to compare to SAEBRS to determine if this is an appropriate screening tool for the students and school. Each school may use a variety of universal screening tools. The most important thing to know and understand is that each student must be screening for social, emotional, and behavior risk.


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Social, Emotional, And Behavior Risk Screening. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
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