Academic journal article School Psychology Review

What Is Measured in Mathematics Tests? Construct Validity of Curriculum-Based Mathematics Measures

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

What Is Measured in Mathematics Tests? Construct Validity of Curriculum-Based Mathematics Measures

Article excerpt

Abstract. Mathematics assessment is often characterized in the literature as being composed of two broad components: Computation and Applications. Many assessment tools are available to evaluate student skill in these areas of mathematics. However, not all math tests can be used in formative evaluation to inform instruction and improve student achievement. Mathematics curriculum-based measurement (M-CBM) is one tool that has been developed for formative evaluation in mathematics. However, there is considerably less technical adequacy information on M-CBM than CBM reading. Of particular interest is the construct that M-CBM measures, computation or general mathematics achievement. This study utilized confirmatory factor analysis procedures to determine what constructs M-CBM actually measures in the context of a range of other mathematics measures. Other issues examined in this study included math assessment in general and the role of reading in math assessment. Participants were 207 fourth-grade students who we retested with math computation, math applications, and reading tests. Three theoretical models of mathematics were tested. Results indicated that a two-factor model of mathematics where Computation and Applications were distinct although related constructs, M-CBM was a measure of Computation, and reading skill was highly correlated with both math factors best fit the data. Secondary findings included the important role that reading skills play in general mathematics assessment.

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A large number of students receive special education services for academic achievement problems. According to the 19th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA; U.S. Department of Education, 1997), over 5 million students were served under IDEA during the 1995-96 school year. More than half of those students receiving special education services (2,597,231) were identified with achievement deficits, and therefore, served under the learning disability category. Even more students are at-risk for developing academic problems (National center for Educational Statistics, 1996). When combined with the large number of students served in special education nationally, almost one student in five receives some type of remedial education to reduce academic achievement deficits (Shinn & McConnell, 1994).

Traditionally, reading deficits have received the most attention in the education literature. For example, in a review of the literature on reading disabilities, Hallahan, Kaufman, and Lloyd (1985) asserted that reading is essential for academic functioning in nearly all subjects. However, these researchers also suggested that the common assumption that disabilities in mathematics are not as prevalent as those in reading and writing is misleading, if not completely false. Numerous evaluations reveal significant deficits in mathematics performance for students in the United States (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 1992; Reese, Miller, Mazzeo, & Dossey, 1997). For example, more than 80% of eighth-grade students could not solve modestly difficult problems (e.g., compute with decimals, fractions, and percents; recognize geometric figures; solve simple equations) correctly from their eighth-grade math textbook (NAEP, 1992). Anrig and LaPointe (1989) found that only 16% of eighth-grade students i n the U.S. mastered the content of the typical eighth-grade mathematics text. NAEP results also revealed that only 8% of eighth graders could answer mathematics questions requiring problem-solving skills (NAEP, 1992). Finally, the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress in Mathematics reported that across Grades 4, 8, and 12, 25% or fewer students were estimated to be at the Proficient level or beyond, where students should demonstrate evidence of solid academic performance. Only 2 to 4% of students attained the Advanced level, where students should demonstrate superior performance (Reese et al. …

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