Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Estimating Reading Growth Using Intermittent CBM Progress Monitoring

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Estimating Reading Growth Using Intermittent CBM Progress Monitoring

Article excerpt

Nothing distinguishes special from general education as much as special education's attention to students as individuals. D. Fuchs and Fuchs (1995) described individualized education as the "signature feature of effective special education practice" (p. 528). Four essential attributes distinguish special education: (a) identifying goals that address educational needs specific to an individual with a disability, (b) designing and implementing instruction formulated specially for that individual and those goals, (c) monitoring and evaluating the individual's progress toward the goals, and (d) adjusting instruction when the individual's progress is unsatisfactory. For special education to have integrity, both legally and conceptually, all four attributes are essential--and they are central features of the individualized education program (IEP).

Monitoring progress for purposes of instructional decision making may be the key ingredient of the IEP; it functions as a self-correcting mechanism for imperfect planning and instruction. This research sought answers to three fundamental questions regarding the amount of measurement needed to obtain valid estimates of reading growth: Is validity of growth estimates degraded by measuring progress less often, by minimizing the number of scores per measurement occasion, or by minimizing the number of scores used to assess baseline--in other words, by reducing the demands of progress monitoring?

Within the field of special education, the curriculum-based measurement (CBM; Deno, 1985) of reading aloud (RA) from equivalent passages is the preferred procedure to monitor reading growth in the elementary years. Deno pioneered this approach "to assist special educators in using progress monitoring data to make meaningful decisions about student progress and to improve the quality of instructional programs" (Stecker, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2005, p. 795). Measuring words read correctly (WRC) possesses strong psychometric characteristics as well as theoretical and empirical support for its capacity to model reading growth (Deno, Mirkin, & Chiang, 1982: L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Maxwell, 1988; Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Espin, & Deno, 2003; Jenkins & Jewell, 1993; Shinn, Good, Knutson, Tilly, & Collins, 1992).

In developing CBM, Deno's (1985) goal was to provide teachers with the tools of applied science--allowing them to measure and graph performance daily, introduce instructional modifications, and evaluate performance every few days--a recursive process in which student performance informs teaching (Deno; Deno & Mirkin, 1977). CBM was developed in the 1970s, when learning disability programs operated on something of a clinical model with caseloads of 8 to 12 students taught singly or in very small groups. In the decades since, special education caseloads have increased significantly; teachers today serve three to four times as many students, most of whom qualify for specially designed instruction in multiple subjects (e.g., reading, arithmetic, writing). Contemporary special education teachers generally consider daily and weekly measurement to be a "best practice" beyond their reach. This is unfortunate on two levels. First, when teachers forgo progress monitoring, they omit an essential feature of an individualized (special) education. Second, teachers who are accomplished in using measurement to guide instruction obtain stronger reading growth (L. S. Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; L. S. Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, & Ferguson, 1992).


This study targets a fundamental problem of practice, specifically teachers' underutilization of scientifically, validated procedures for monitoring reading progress. Even though CBM monitoring is efficient compared to most approaches, many teachers regard once- or twice-a-week progress assessments as impractical (Wesson, King, & Deno, 1984). …

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