The social, emotional, and behavioral (SEB) health of students of students is critically important.  We know that SEB risk needs to be identified and treated early in order to prevent a downward spiral of not only school difficulties but also negative outcomes in adulthood (e.g., poor employment, poverty). [1]  [2]  [3]

Although options to effectively screen for SEB problems exist, a disconnect appears with regard to usability in school contexts. We simply do not yet have sufficient data to support recommendations for school-based behavioral assessment practices that are both defensible (psychometrically sound) and usable (feasible, acceptable, supported).

Before social, emotional, and behavioral screeners continue to be developed, evaluated, and promoted, it is important that we understand if and how these screeners are being used, and what factors influence their usage.  This information is critical to informed directions for policy and future research in school-based behavior assessment.

NEEDs2 Project

The National Exploration of Emotional/Behavioral Detection in School Screening (NEEDs2) project aims to fill this gap. This project, led by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Northeastern University, was funded by the National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, within the social and behavioral context for academic learning portfolio (R305A140543).

The goals and objectives of this three-year grant project are to respond to the following four research questions:

  1. Nationally, what do state and district-level priorities look like with regard to school-based behavior policy?
  2. Nationally, do school districts incorporate behavior screening practices? If so, what do those practices look like at elementary and secondary levels?
  3. Does implementation of behavior screening practices predict student behavioral outcomes? If so, do practices serve as a partial mediator and moderator for district characteristics, perceived usability, and behavior curricula practices?
  4. What do key stakeholders perceive as the intended purpose, value, and usability of school-based behavior screening? For those implementing practices, what is the perceived effectiveness?

What We Are Doing

NEEDs2 researchers first conducted a systematic review of state-level websites to identify the extent to which state departments of education have provided specific guidance regarding the who, what, where, when, and why of SEB screening practices.

Simultaneously, the research team conducted a national online survey of school district administrators, building administrators, student support staff, teachers and parents to look at current screening practices and how educators and families think about the options for addressing social, emotional and behavioral health.  Survey items focused heavily on perceptions about the use, purpose, and value of different options in SEB screening.

Finally, the research team worked to integrate all sources of data to understand how use of different SEB screening approaches can influence student, school, and district outcomes. Overall, project results will assist policy-makers and practitioners in decision-making about SEB service delivery in schools, with the ultimate goal to facilitate student learning.

To read more details about the methods used for RQ1, see Briesch, A. M., Chafouleas, S. M., & Chaffee, R. K. (2017). State-level priorities in school-based behavior screening policies and initiatives. School Mental Health.

RQ2 through RQ4 detailed methods are described in our Project Methodology.


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1 Blackman, Ostrander, & Herman, 2005; Kern, Choutka, & Sokol, 2002; Malecki & Elliott, 2002; Sanson, Prior, & Smart, 1996; Witt, VanDerHeyden, & Gilbertson, 2004

2 Bradley, Doolittle, & Bartolotta, 2008

3 New Freedom Commission, 2003