Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Investigation of Situational Bias: Conspicuous and Covert Timing during Curriculum-Based Measurement of Mathematics across African American and Caucasian Students

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

An Investigation of Situational Bias: Conspicuous and Covert Timing during Curriculum-Based Measurement of Mathematics across African American and Caucasian Students

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study evaluated situational bias that could be associated with curriculum-based measurement (CBM). Situational bias occurs when testing situations, conditions, or contexts differentially affect the performance of individuals from diverse groups. During CBM, students are timed (e.g., students are told to begin and a stopwatch is started) while responding. Researchers have suggested that African Americans may have different concepts of time, and therefore may respond differently when being timed. In the current study, the mathematical responding of 79 African American and Caucasian general education, eighth-grade students was compared under covertly timed and conspicuously timed CBM conditions. Results showed that students' accuracy levels increased under the conspicuous timing conditions, but there was no interaction between timing condition and ethnicity for digits correct per minute, digits incorrect per minute, or accuracy. These results suggest that timing procedures used during CBM do not i ntroduce situational bias.


Many researchers and educators have attempted to explain ethnic differences in academic performance (e.g., Dozier & Barnes, 1997; Hershberger & D'Augelli, 1992; Nyberg, McMillin, O'Neill-Rood, & Florence, 1997). Substantial differences between African American and Caucasian students' academic achievement continues to be a source of controversy in education (Brown, Reynolds, & Whitaker, 1999). Methods used to assess academic achievement may play a role in these differences. Culturally biased assessment procedures may invalidate studies that establish these differences. Perhaps a more serious problem is related to educational validity. Assessment results are often used to make educational decisions with respect to specific students. Culturally biased assessment procedures may cause educators to make inappropriate educational decisions for students from specific cultures. In this manner, culturally biased assessment procedures can have a negative effect on learning rates of students from different cultures.

Curriculum-Based Measurement: Content and Situational Bias

Characteristics of curriculum-based measurement (CBM) allow these procedures to be useful in making educational decisions for specific students. Specifically, CBM procedures are brief; educators can construct multiple parallel forms from the students' curricula; and results yield rate data that are extremely sensitive to changes in academic skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Phillips, & Bentz, 1994). Thus, CBM data can be used to evaluate students' learning rates frequently and over brief periods of time (Deno & Mirkin, 1977; Fuchs et al., 1994; Shinn, 1995). These characteristics allow educators to use CBM to compare more than one instructional intervention to determine which intervention maximizes learning rates for individual students (e.g., Daly, Martens, Dool, & Hintze, 1998; Daly, Witt, Martens, & Dool, 1997; Deno, 1986; Skinner, Belfiore, Mace, Williams, & Johns, 1997; Skinner, Belfiore, & Watson, 1995).

Mega-analysis results (a synthesis of meta-analytic studies) suggest that using CBM procedures to make educational decisions is one of the most, if not the most, effective strategies for enhancing learning rates or achievement in special education students (Forness, Kavale, Blum, & Lloyd, 1997). Unfortunately, few studies have investigated cultural bias associated with CBM procedures. One study found no differences in mean CBM reading scores across African Amercian and Caucasian students (Knoff & Dean, 1994). In a more recent study, Kranzler, Miller, and Jordan (1999) found evidence that CBM reading scores overestimated reading comprehension of African American fourth- and fifth-grade students. Although Kranzler et al. (1999) found evidence of cultural bias, it is not clear what variable(s) accounted for this bias. …

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