Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Validation and Decision Accuracy of Early Numeracy Skill Indicators

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Validation and Decision Accuracy of Early Numeracy Skill Indicators

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of this study was to develop short-duration assessment measures hypothesized to be valid samples of early mathematical behavior.The Early Numeracy Skill Indicators were designed using a curriculum-based assessment approach. Participants included 64 kindergarten children from a school district in the rural Northeast. Design components featured longitudinal correlation analyses conducted over a 26-week period. Decision analyses were completed using receiver operating characteristic techniques. Results indicated that selected Early Numeracy Skill Indicators tasks produced reliable, valid, and diagnostically accurate scores in to established criterion measures. Implications focus on the use and relation development of the measures as a means to prevent failure and enhance mathematics competency. Further, these tools complement the growing availability of early mathematics curriculum-based measures.

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Preventing early learning problems through effective formative assessment has been shown to promote student success and enhance competence (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Daly, Hintze, & Hamler, 2000; Deno, 1989; Fuchs & Fuchs, 2001; Shinn, 1995). Screening young children for readiness skills upon school entry is an established educational tradition continually in need of empirical support (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2001; Gredler, 1992). Many schools feature kindergarten screening processes as means to establish relationships, examine entry-level skills, and prepare instructional support mechanisms. Typically, screening entails the brief examination of children for skill proficiency in foundational areas of academic development such as social behavior, speech, language, early literacy, and early numeracy (Howell & Nolet, 1999). The aim of these examinations is to help educators make accurate placement and instructional support decisions before the onset of schooling (Gredler, 1992).

Adopting a data-driven, curriculum-based measurement (CBM) assessment approach at kindergarten entry may reduce the need for higher stakes assessment later in a child's educational career and may serve to equalize opportunity (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1986, 2001). Stanovich (1986) applied the idea of a "Matthew effect" to children learning to read; he noted that children with strong early literacy skills increasingly outperform less competent peers throughout their educational careers (Good, Simmons, & Smith, 1998). Early assessment and intervention are crucial for preventing this divisive trend. Large-scale data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study suggest similar Matthew effects. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a nationally representative assessment examining subject matter proficiency. Fourth-grade results in mathematics from 1996 through 2004 indicate that the percentage of children at or below basic levels of proficiency (approximately 40%) has remained stable, whereas the number of children at or above proficient levels has doubled (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004). These data are consistent with the spirit of the Matthew effect in reading, suggesting that students with stronger skills are more likely to profit from education than lower skilled peers (Kavale, Forness, & Siperstein, 1999; Stanovich, 1986).

Factors placing young children at risk for mathematics achievement problems are evident in the results of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which followed a cohort of 10,500 kindergarten students from 1998 to their third-grade year in 2002 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). On a standardized measure of number sense, operations, and geometry designed to align with popular curricular "strands" (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000, 2006), students with no reported risk factors significantly outperformed students with more than one risk factor. …

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