A cost-effectiveness analysis of four approaches to universal screening for academic risk in reading in upper elementary and middle school
Validations of academic screening tools and models have typically focused on technical adequacy without meaningfully considering costs and value. Educators in upper elementary and middle school have access to more student achievement data, which makes the evaluation of the costs of collecting new data for screening purposes paramount. I conducted a retrospective analysis of four approaches to reading screening using cost-effectiveness analysis. Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) and statewide achievement test data were collected by a midsize school district in Texas for 19,417 students in grades 4 through 8. I analyzed the total cost, the diagnostic accuracy based on local cut-scores derived using Receiver Operating Characteristic analysis, and the cost-effectiveness of each approach. Full implementation of the fall administration of the reading CBM cost the district $60,352.90 in upper elementary and $86,752.15 in middle school. Both the use of prior year statewide achievement test data alone and the multivariate model met typical recommendations for diagnostic accuracy. The multiple gate model produced the lowest cost-effectiveness ratio at $151.03 per additional student accurately classified in upper elementary and $186.10 in middle school, but also led to the highest number of false negatives. The use of a CBM alone resulted in the highest costs and lowest diagnostic accuracy. The results suggest that the use of prior year statewide achievement test data in grades 4 through 8 is an efficient data source for universal screening and may provide the benefit of allowing schools to shift resources from screening to other educational priorities in these grade levels.