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Behavior Screening with FAST™

By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP

Student success is the result of many factors, including positive home and school environments, effective instruction, and regular feedback on performance. For many years, schools have focused on supporting students’ academic success and recent efforts include focused attention on the nature of instruction as well as assessments of student performance. It is clear that certain academic teaching and assessment practices are connected to better student outcomes (Hattie, 2008). There has been less research about behavior instruction and assessment. Behavior instruction can encompass many facets of students’ daily school routines, including everything from how they get off the bus in the morning to interactions with peers and teachers during the school day. An interesting thing about student behavior is that most everyone can agree when the “wrong” behaviors are displayed, but not necessarily when the “right” ones are present.

A notable line of research about student behavior has been conducted by Rob Horner, George Sugai and others and is called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This research has investigated whether intentionally teaching students the “right” behaviors for each school setting results in students displaying more positive behaviors and fewer “wrong” ones. The good news is that research results clearly support teaching students the “right” behaviors to use at school, and when this is done, there are fewer office discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions (Horner, Sugai, Smolkowski, Todd, Nakasato, & Esperanza). An additional component of the PBIS research investigated whether it is possible to screen students for possible behavior difficulties so that they can be addressed before a student is removed from the classroom. Again, studies have confirmed that universal screening for behavioral difficulties can work to identify the students who might benefit from additional behavioral supports beyond those provided for all students (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, 2017). FAST™ has three behavior screening instruments that can be used to identify students who might benefit from additional behavior instruction or support. I use the word “might” here intentionally, because all screening data MUST be confirmed with other sources of information about an individual student’s school performance. When used in conjunction with other sources of information, FAST’s™ behavior screening tools provide a powerful way to anticipate and support students at risk for school behavior difficulties. FAST’s™ behavior screening tools are summarized in the following table.

Title Brief Title Grades
Social, Academic, Emotional Rating Scale-Teacher Version SAEBRS K-12
Social, Academic, Emotional Rating Scale-Student Version mySAEBRS 2-12
Developmental Milestones DevMilestones K



The SAEBRS is a 19-item online rating scale that a teacher fills out about each student that he or she teaches. The items are organized into three subscales: (a) Social, (b) Academic, and (c) Emotional. The items in each subscale include short sentences related to the student’s typical daily behaviors in that area. The subscale and total scores are organized so that a higher score means a better level of functioning. There are four possible ratings for each item, ranging from never, sometimes, often, to almost always. A teacher can complete the online scale for all students in one sitting or complete some and then return to complete the other students later. The scales for all students should be completed within the school’s planned “window” of screening dates. The teacher can see each student’s SAEBRS scores immediately after completing the complete scale for that student. The SAEBRS can be used alone or be accompanied by the mySAEBRS which is the version for students in grades 2 through 12.


The mySAEBRS is very similar to the SAEBRS but includes 20 items. It is organized into the same three subscales. Like the teacher version of the scale, the students complete the mySAEBRS online. This can be done by having a teacher or group proctor open and start the scale for each student, or individual student accounts can be set up for students to complete the scale independently. Each mySAEBRS item is a statement with a four level rating choice at the bottom of the screen and each item is read aloud to the student using headphones. The student clicks on the level that matches his or her agreement with the item. The rating choices are the same as those on the teacher scale but they are presented with circles showing both the words and circles that go from empty to fully colored.

Students must click on a rating in order to advance to the next item. At the end of the mySAEBRS there is a screen that tells the student he or she is done. The student does not see his or her score on the screen, but the teacher can see the score as soon as the student completes the entire scale by navigating to the Reports menu in FAST™. An important benefit of using the mySAEBRS with the SAEBRS is that the teacher can compare his or her ratings of the students’ social, academic, and emotional skills with each student’s ratings. Such information can be helpful whether the teacher and student scores are similar or different. If they are similar, the teacher will quickly know if there are any areas of concern for the student. If the teacher and student scores are different, then the teacher can consider why they are not alike and if additional assessment is needed to identify a student’s unique needs.


The Developmental Milestones scale is a tool specifically designed for evaluating the school readiness skills of very young children. It was initially designed for students in Kindergarten but during the 2016-2017 school year research is being conducted to determine whether the DevMilestones could also be used with preschool children (e.g., ages 3-5). DevMilestones is completed by teachers and includes 47 items that rate a child’s relative competency across six domains:

  1. Language, Literacy, and Communications (12 items)
  2. Cognitive Development (10 items)
  3. Social and Emotional Development (8 items)
  4. Creativity and the Arts (4 items)
  5. Approaches to Learning (6 items)
  6. Physical and Motor Development (7 items)

This scale is criterion-based and the teacher rates the child’s current level of competency on each item according to the following descriptors:

  • Inquiring: Skills that are prerequisites, or foundational, and set the stage for student to master the skill.
  • Emerging: Slightly more sophisticated skills a student is starting to display in a limited way.
  • Incorporating: Skills that show student is putting together more skills and using them in more independent and flexible ways.
  • Mastering: Complex skills a student is consistently demonstrating that show use in new ways and new situations.

There is a fifth rating option, unable to rate, that should be used if the teacher has not observed the child sufficiently to indicate a current level of performance. A unique feature of the DevMilestones is that it is set up so that the teacher completes the same item for all children and then moves on to the next item. The purpose of this format is to help the teacher be consistent in rating all the children according to the rating anchors. As with the SAEBRS, the teacher can begin the ratings in one session and finish them at a later time as long as all the ratings are completed during the screening “window.” The DevMilestones scores are available for each student as soon as all items are completed for that student.

FAST™ offers three behavior screening assessments that can be used to identify any students who might need additional instruction in order to meet school expectations and life skills goals.  The SAEBRS, mySAEBRS, and DevMilestones are online rating scales that are completed by either the teacher or student in order to evaluate each student’s current behavior skills compared to other students in the same setting. After completing any of these ratings, teachers are encouraged to meet together in grade-level or content-area teams to review and evaluate student needs. The FAST™ behavior measures can be used as part of a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) to improve all students’ behaviors. An important companion to the FAST™ behavior measures is the research about implementing a PBIS system. The PBIS model includes universal behavior screening and instruction at Tier 1, followed by increasingly intensive interventions at Tiers 2 and 3. To assist with monitoring those students who participate in behavior interventions, FAST™ offers the Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) system as a progress monitoring tool. More information about FAST’s™ screening tools and the DBR is available at


Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement.  New York: Routledge.

Horner, R., Sugai, G., Smolkowski, K., Todd, A., Nakasato, J., & Esperanza, J.  (2009). A Randomized control trial of school-wide positive behavior support in elementary schools.  Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 11, 113-144.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, OSEP Technical Assistance Center. (2017). Measures. Retrieved from:


Dr. Rachel Brown is FastBridge Learning’s Senior Academic Officer. She previously served as Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Southern Maine. Her research focuses on effective academic assessment and intervention, including multi-tier systems of support, and she has authored several books on Response to Intervention and MTSS.

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