Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Validity of General Outcome Measures for Predicting Secondary Students' Performance on Content-Area Tasks

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Validity of General Outcome Measures for Predicting Secondary Students' Performance on Content-Area Tasks

Article excerpt

It is clear from the record of educational performance for adolescents with mild disabilities that something must be done to improve our decision-making procedures at the secondary level. Students with learning disabilities enter secondary school severely deficient in basic reading and written expression skills (deBettencourt, Zigmond, & Thornton, 1989; Deshler, Schumaker, Alley, Warner, & Clark, 1982; Levin, Zigmond, & Birch, 1985; Morris & Leuenberger, 1990; Warner, Schumaker, Alley, & Deshler, 1980), and leave 3 to 4 years later with little or no improvement in these areas (Zigmond, 1990). Added to their poor academic skills are poor classroom survival skills. Students with disabilities are prepared less well for class; complete fewer homework assignments; have lower work orientation; and have higher rates of distractibility, off-task behavior, and behavior problems than do their peers without disabilities (Bender & Smith, 1990; Gregory, Shanahan, & Walberg, 1985; Zigmond, Kerr, & Schaeffer, 1988). Compounding these skill and work habit deficits, secondary students are faced with a demanding curriculum, no longer focused on the acquisition of basic skills, but on the use of basic skills to acquire content knowledge (Alley & Deshler, 1979; Schumaker 81 Deshler, 1984).

Given the mismatch between students' skills and curriculum demands, it is not surprising that students with disabilities experience high rates of failure in their mainstream content-area classes (Donahoe & Zigmond, 1900; Wagner, 1990; Zigmond, Levin, & Laurie, 1985). These high rates of failure, in turn, are related to high rates of dropping out of school (Barrington & Hendricks, 1989; deBettencourt & Zigmond, 1990; deBettencourt et al., 1989; Wagner, 1990); and the prognosis for students with disabilities who drop out of school is dismal (Sitlington & Frank, 1993; White, 1992).

The solution to the complex problems of secondary students with learning disabilities is likely to itself be complex; yet, we believe that an important part of the solution is to enable secondary special education teachers to become more informed decision makers. At the elementary level, research has clearly demonstrated the positive effects of informed teacher decision making on student achievement. Teachers who use a simple set of procedures referred to as curriculum-based or general-outcome measurement to monitor student growth and evaluate instruction effect higher achievement gains than those who do not use such systematic data-collection procedures (L. S. Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 1989a, 1989b, 1989c; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Allinder, 1991; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, & Ferguson, 1992; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Stecker, 1990; Wesson et al., 1988). In addition, educators have used general outcome measures to improve instructional decision making regarding the appropriateness of student placement into the general education curriculum (D. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Fernstrom, 1992; 1993; Shinn, Habedank, RoddenNord, & Knutson, 1993) and to monitor the academic performance of students once placed in that curriculum (D. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Fernstrom, 1992, 1993; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Phillips, & Bentz, 1994).

The term general outcome measurement was introduced by L. S. Fuchs and Deno (1991). We use the term general outcome rather than curriculum-based-measurement because we feel that "general outcome" more accurately describes the nature of progress monitoring at the secondary level. At this level, we are less interested in students' performance in a selected curriculum, and more interested in their general level of skill proficiency or level of content-area learning. In addition, research demonstrates that measures do not have to be selected from the curriculum in which the student is working in order to be a valid measure of student performance (Espin & Deno, 1994-95; L. …

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