Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Curriculum-Based Measurement in Writing: Predicting the Success of High-School Students on State Standards Tests

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Curriculum-Based Measurement in Writing: Predicting the Success of High-School Students on State Standards Tests

Article excerpt

In this study, we examine the validity and reliability of curriculum-based measures (CBMs) as indicators of performance on a state standards test in writing. More than 41 states require students to take a test in writing or require a writing component on their English/Language Arts assessments (McCombs, Kirby, Barney, Darilek, & Magee, 2005). In 20 of these states, students are required to pass the state test in order to graduate from high school (Kober, Chudowsky, Chudowsky, Gayler, & McMurrer, 2006). Yet, many high school students struggle with writing, especially those students with disabilities. Results of the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicate that 70% of 12th-grade students with disabilities score below a basic level of writing proficiency, defined as partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work.

Secondary teachers must work to ameliorate the writing difficulties of students with disabilities. To do so, they must have at their disposal writing interventions with a strong evidence base; yet, they must also have the means to evaluate the success of such interventions for their particular students. A system of progress measurement that allows teachers to evaluate the success of their instruction and monitor the growth of students toward success on a state standards test would prove helpful. One such system is CBM.


Curriculum-based measurement (CBM) is a system of progress monitoring used to enhance the instructional decision making of teachers and the achievement of students (Deno, 1985; Deno & Fuchs 1987). In a CBM approach, students are administered probes on a frequent basis (e.g., once per week), and the scores are graphed. Teachers examine the graphs to evaluate the effects of an instructional program. The probes in a CBM progress-monitoring system are designed to be valid and reliable indicators of general proficiency in an academic area (Deno). The concept of indicator is important in a CBM approach. If CBM measures are to be used for instructional decision making, they must be technically adequate; that is, they must have a relatively high level of validity and reliability for gauging performance and progress in an academic area. At the same time, if the measures are to be given on a frequent basis for progress monitoring, they must be feasible; that is, they must be time efficient, easy to administer and score, and easy to understand (Deno).

The initial research on CBM (see Deno, 1985) was conducted at the elementary level and focused on identifying measures that would meet the two-pronged criterion of technical adequacy and feasibility. In the area of writing, early work supported the reliability and validity of a 3-min writing sample produced in response to a story starter and scored for number of words written (WW), words written correctly (WWC), or correct word sequences (CWS) written (Deno, Marston, & Mirkin, 1982; Deno, Mirkin, & Marston, 1980; Marston, 1989; Marston, Lowry, Deno, & Mirkin, 1981; Tindal & Parker, 1991; Videen, Deno, & Marston, 1982). In the 1990s, the research on the development of writing measures was extended to the secondary level. Two critical issues arose in this early research. First, would the simple measures and scoring procedures used at the elementary-school level be valid and reliable at the secondary level or would new measures need to be developed? Second, how would the construct of writing proficiency be defined and measured?


Serving as a backdrop to the development of CBM secondary-level writing measures was a body of research conducted in the 1980s on the writing characteristics of students with learning disabilities (LD; see Newcomer & Barenbaum, 1991, for a review). This body of research yielded a surprisingly consistent, yet sobering, picture. …

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