Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Curriculum-Based Measurement: An Emerging Alternative to Traditional Assessment for African American Children and Youth

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Curriculum-Based Measurement: An Emerging Alternative to Traditional Assessment for African American Children and Youth

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an overview of Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM). Special education is often used for meeting the needs of African American children and youth. Assessment reform is needed that emphasizes reliable and valid alternative assessment, linkages to the curriculum, and progress monitoring. CBM may be a viable alternative to current norm-referenced assessment practices that are often biased toward African American children and youth.

Despite far-reaching improvements in effective assessment and instructional practices, African American and other racial minorities in education continue to receive substandard services (Losen & Orfield, 2002). As a result of failing to receive an adequate education, special education services are often sought as a solution. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have viewed the issue of disproportionate placement of minority students in special education, especially under the label of mental retardation, as an ongoing national problem (Harry & Anderson, 1994; Losen & Orfield, 2002).

Solutions other than placing minority children and youth in special education must be explored for solving their academic problems. Part of the solution involves changing the way in which schools do business with minority children, and in particular, African American children and youth. Academic "affirmative action" must be taken based on what works from research and then applying those research findings to practice in a culturally responsive way. In other words, schools must become more research-based, data-driven, and outcomes-oriented when seeking effective approaches to meet the needs of African American children and youth. The authors contend that those who advocate for improvements in the education of African American children and youth should adhere to practices that are supported by a solid, empirical research base. Such an adherence is needed, if schools are to adequately prevent large numbers of African American students who are having learning difficulties from being referred to special education services.


Researchers and educators have noted that the performance gap of African Americans and other minority students (except for Asian Americans) have continued to lag behind their Caucasian counterparts across the socioeconomic spectrum, from kindergarten through graduate school (Alson, 2003; Christie, 2002; Wilgoren, 1999). African American children and youth, in elementary, middle, high school, and college continue to perform below average across reading, math, and written language (Losen & Orfield, 2002). This gap in performance is not only occurring in the lower socioeconomic class of African American families but also in many middle-class African American families who are continuing to lag behind, failing to make the necessary gains in school (Alson, 2003; Wilgoren, 1999).

The poor educational outcomes of African American children and youth contribute to difficulties in gaining substantive employment following school and entrance into postsecondary institutions (Alson, 2003; Wilgoren, 1999). All educators should ensure that African American students possess the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce. Projections indicate that minorities will make up 40 percent of Americans under age 18 by 2030 (Alson, 2003; Taylor, 2003). The rapid changes taking place in the racial and ethnic composition of the nation bring a new sense of urgency to the education of African Americans and other minorities in this 21st century (Alson, 2003; Wilgoren 1999). Alson (2003) and Taylor (2003) outlined the many factors that play a role in contributing to the achievement or underachievement in the educational progress of African Americans. These myriad factors are numerous and include racism, poverty, poor educational leadership, inappropriate school size and grouping, inadequate school and community support, lack of early childhood literacy development, impersonal education environments, lack of a cultural context that values education, low parent and teacher expectations, lack of positive neighborhood influences, insufficient parental support for education, negative peer pressure, instruction not aligned with student needs, and the use of assessments that are too inadequate to capture student learning. …

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