Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

Is It Working?: An Overview of Curriculum Based Measurement and Its Uses for Assessing Instructional, Intervention, or Program Effectiveness

Academic journal article The Behavior Analyst Today

Is It Working?: An Overview of Curriculum Based Measurement and Its Uses for Assessing Instructional, Intervention, or Program Effectiveness

Article excerpt

Presented here is an overview of Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM)--a standardized process of obtaining data regarding a student's acquisition of skills in reading, writing, math, and spelling. A review of research that has utilized CBM in its efforts to define effective teaching strategies also is offered. Overall, the goal of this discussion is to orient professionals working with students in and outside of the school setting to a model of assessment that is gaining wide acceptance in data based decision making.

Keywords: CBM, PSM, RtI, DIBELS


The field of education often is not associated with rigorous lines of scientific inquiry--until recently (Shavelson & Towne, 2002; Sweet, 2004) when the National Research Council asserted that current educational practices must be put to the test of clinical rigor as their impact on student outcomes is investigated (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). At the same time, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development identified students' academic failure as a national public health problem (c.f., Reyna, 2004). Specifically, their proclamation calls for the elimination of practices that have found comfort in classrooms due to their appeal, intuitive feel, or alignment with philosophical beliefs rather than through data-based processes that support their use in educating students (Reyna, 2004; Sweet, 2004).

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB, 2001) and Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEIA, 2004) have further shaped educational goals with requirements that students' academic experiences be enriched with high quality and research-based instructional strategies. The end goal is that all students regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or identified disabilities must reach levels of proficiency in core academic areas--notably reading. Attainment of these goals is determined by student performance on state-level tests. Thus, it becomes evident that students off track for meeting these goals must be identified early; at a point before the gap between expected outcomes and observed skills broadens. For these students, data must be used to identify why their learning trajectories are not progressing in the desired directions. A desired outcome of this analysis would produce hypotheses that link skill gaps to alterable instructional/environmental variables that lead directly to intervention (National Association of State Directors of Special Education--NASDSE, 2006). Within a Problem Solving Model (PSM), this analysis utilizes data to guide and evaluate decision making that seeks to remove barriers impeding learning. Importantly, within this model, frequent (e.g., weekly) monitoring of students' responses to instructional modifications must occur (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2004) with changes to ineffective strategies made. Also known as Response to Intervention (RtI), the overarching goal of this dynamic cycle of data collection and evaluation is to identify changes in rates of skill attainment based on modified instruction or environmental conditions (NASDSE, 2006). Problem solving and RtI are becoming central tenets in the field of education (NASDSE, 2006).

An apparent need entwined in this approach is a metric for monitoring student skill acquisition in basic academic domains. Tools for collecting these data must, first, be sensitive to small changes in skill acquisition. Additionally, frequent administration of these indices must not confound future data (i.e., practice or carryover effects). Notably, these assessments must be quick and easy to administer. Indeed, General Outcome Measurement systems such as those structured from a students' instructional framework, i.e., Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM), address all these needs.

Purpose of Article

The purpose of this article is two-fold. First, it provides a general overview of CBM. Second, it presents a review of not only how CBM can support decision making in the educational setting but also how it monitors student(s) response to instruction, intervention, and program implementation. …

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