Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Expert System Consultation within Curriculum-Based Measurement, Using a Reading Maze Task

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Expert System Consultation within Curriculum-Based Measurement, Using a Reading Maze Task

Article excerpt

* Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is a standardized measurement system used to monitor students' academic growth and to improve instructional programs (Deno, 1985, 1986; Shinn, 1989). With CBM, teachers (a) determine the annual curricular goal for a student, (b) use a prescriptive measurement system first to sample the curriculum systematically to produce tests and then to regularly administer the short tests representing the annual curriculum, and (c) use the assessment information to monitor student progress and to adjust programs as necessary to enhance student outcomes.

Research investigating teachers' use of CBM is promising. It appears that with CBM, instructional quality and student achievement increase (e.g., Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1986; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Stecker, 1990; Jones & Krouse, 1988). In response to a mounting database supporting the effectiveness of this strategy, curriculum-based assessment frequently is cited as a potential method for enhancing the quality of services within both regular and special education settings (e.g., Christenson, Ysseldyke, & Thurlow, 1989; Gersten, Carnine, & Woodward, 1987; Reisberg & Wolf, 1988; Will, 1986; Zigmond & Miller, 1986).

Despite support for CBM efficacy and calls for CBM implementation, research indicates that the specific structure of CBM may be critical to successful implementation and to differential instructional quality and related achievement gains. For example, teachers' systematic use of the assessment information, rather than measurement alone, represents one key to better achievement outcomes (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 1989b; Wesson et al., 1988). Use of the database to monitor the appropriateness of goals and to adjust goals upward when possible also appears related to improved student growth (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 1989a). In addition, information to supplement graphed displays of students' overall scores--to provide teachers with more specific information about students' curricular strengths and deficiencies-relates to differential achievement (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 1989c; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Allinder, 1991; Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Stecker, 1990).

Consequently, investigation of the conditions under which CBM enhances instructional quality appears essential. One dimension that needs systematic study is the importance of consultative support to teachers in successfully adjusting instructional programs, in response to CBM data. Within all studies in which CBM was related to enhanced instructional quality and achievement, support systems to teachers have been intact. For example, in a large CBM efficacy study conducted in the New York City Schools (Fuchs et al., 1984), consultants visited teachers each week to help them formulate ideas for improving instruction when the CBM data indicated student progress was unsatisfactory. Previous research (Casey, Deno, Marston, & Skiba, 1988; Tindal, Fuchs, Christenson, Mirkin, & Deno, 1981) has suggested that teachers experience difficulty in formulating ideas to modify their instructional routines. Thus, the question of the importance of instructional consultation to successful CBM implementation appears critical. The primary purpose of this study was to assess the contribution of instructional consultation to CBM effectiveness.

We structured this investigation in the following way. We developed a CBM-based expert system that provided computerized, systematic instructional consultation to teachers. Teachers employed the expert system only when the CBM graph indicated a student's rate of progress under the current instructional routine was inadequate and that an instructional adjustment was required. The expert system relied on information about (a) the student's CBM graph, which displayed the student's CBM reading scores over time; (b) the student's performance on decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills, as judged by the teacher; (c) the student's work performance history in the classroom; (d) the teacher's previous instructional program; (e) the teacher's curricular priorities; and (f) feasibility issues. …

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