This research study examined the psychometric properties of the Student Risk Screening Scale for Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors (SRSS-IE) using Item Response Theory (IRT) methods among a sample of 2,122 middle school students. The SRSS-IE is a recently revised screening instrument aimed at identifying students who are potentially at risk for emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). There are two studies included in this research. Study 1 utilized the Nominal Response and Generalized Partial Credit models of IRT to evaluate items from the SRSS-IE in terms of the degree to which the response options for each item functioned as intended by the scale developers and how well those response options discriminated among students who exhibited varying levels of EBD risk. Results from this first study indicated that the four response option configurations of the items on the SRSS-IE may not adequately discriminate among the frequency of externalizing and internalizing behaviors demonstrated by middle school students. Recommendations for item response option revisions or scale scoring revisions are discussed in this study. In study 2, differential item functioning (DIF) and differential step functioning (DSF) methods were used to examine differences in item and response option functioning according to student gender variables. Additionally, test information functions (TIFs) were used to determine whether preliminary recommendations for cut scores differ by gender. Results of this second study indicate that two of the items on the SRSS-IE systematically favor males over females and one item systematically favors females over males. Additionally, examination of TIFs demonstrated different degrees of measurement precision at various levels of theta for males and females on both the externalizing and internalizing constructs. Implications of these results are discussed in relation to possible revisions of the SRSS-IE items, cut scores, or scale scoring procedures.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation



Date Submitted


Document Type





Student Risk Screening Scale, emotional and behavioral disorders, universal screening, Item Response Theory, Nominal Response Model, differential item functioning, cut scores