A Comparison of School Psychologists' Acceptability, Training, and Use of Norm-Referenced, Curriculum-Based, and Brief Experimental Analysis Methods to Assess Reading

By Chafouleas, Sandra M.; Riley-Tillman, T. Chris et al. | School Psychology Review, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of School Psychologists' Acceptability, Training, and Use of Norm-Referenced, Curriculum-Based, and Brief Experimental Analysis Methods to Assess Reading


Chafouleas, Sandra M., Riley-Tillman, T. Chris, Eckert, Tanya L., School Psychology Review


Abstract. This investigation compared the acceptability of three methods for assessing reading (i.e., norm-referenced assessment, curriculum-based assessment, brief experimental analysis), and explored how a new assessment methodology can gain acceptance as a useful and appropriate approach. Given that brief experimental analysis is a relatively new methodology, it is important to understand not only how it compares to other assessment methods, but also how level of training and use are related to acceptability of assessment methods. A total of 188 members of the National Association of School Psychologists participated, and were randomly assigned to one of the three assessment conditions. Participants read the case description for their assigned condition, and completed the Assessment Rating Profile-Revised (ARP-R; Eckert, Hintze, & Shapiro, 1999). Overall, the results of the study indicated that participating school psychologists rated curriculum-based assessment as more acceptable that either brief experimental analysis or norm-referenced assessment. In particular, participants highly endorsed curriculum-based assessment as helpful in the development of intervention strategies. Although acceptability ratings for brief experimental analysis and norm-referenced were lower and were not significantly different from each other, it should be noted that participants reported significantly less training in brief experimental analysis. For all conditions, reported training and use were significantly correlated. Implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.

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Given the high percentage of students with inadequate reading skills, school psychologists are frequently requested to assess why students are having difficulty learning to read. However, a number of obstacles may potentially impede the school psychologist's ability to make helpful decisions. For example, effective decisions are dependent upon assessment methodology that can aid in the development of appropriate interventions. One technology that can do this is direct academic assessment. Data collected from direct academic assessment provide valuable information regarding student fluency in basic skills within curricular materials. One group of direct academic assessment techniques that has a substantial literature base is curriculum-based assessment. Although a number of specific models of curriculum-based assessment exist, the term generally refers to evaluation of student performance using material taken from the students' curriculum (Shapiro & Eckert, 1994). Previous research has documented that practitioners are willing to use curriculum-based assessment procedures (McCloskey & Schicke-Athanasiou, 2000; Shapiro & Eckert, 1993), and that teachers prefer curriculum-based over traditional norm-referenced assessment methods (Eckert & Shapiro, 1999; Eckert, Shapiro, & Lutz, 1995). Despite many appealing features of curriculum-based assessment, it does not automatically ensure selection of an effective intervention.

A recent extension of one type of curriculum-based assessment combines curriculum-based measurement with an experimental form of functional assessment called brief experimental analysis of academic performance. It has been suggested that brief experimental analysis may be an effective way to simplify the task of choosing among multiple or competing interventions (Martens, Eckert, Bradley, & Ardoin, 1999). The foundation of brief experimental analysis comes from a behavioral analytic framework in which functional analysis is used to identify sources of intrasubject variability (Daly, Martens, Dool, & Hintze, 1998). In brief experimental analysis of academic performance, curriculum-based measurement data are used to observe the effects of the manipulation of an independent variable. That is, brief experimental analysis is a procedure used in conjunction with curriculum-based assessment data to increase the likelihood of determining a functionally relevant intervention. …

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