Applying in Inclusive Settings: Curriculum-Based Assessment

By King-Sears, Margaret E.; Burgess, Mila et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 1999 | Go to article overview

Applying in Inclusive Settings: Curriculum-Based Assessment

King-Sears, Margaret E., Burgess, Mila, Lawson, Tracey Lynn, Teaching Exceptional Children

So what's a teacher to do when the 30 students in her class have 30 greatly differing achievement, performance, and interest levels-not to mention learning styles and family backgrounds and language preferences? One strategy is to find ways to discover-early, often, and at the end of a unit or semester-what the students know and can do. And these tests must be efficient and fast. Here's where curriculum-based assessment (CBA) can help.

This article shows how to use CBAs, step by step, until, with practice, it may become second nature to you and your students-and provide the boost in motivation and success your students need.

Given individual student characteristics (e.g., learning level and targeted outcomes), the first step in a process describing how to develop and use CBAs, using the mnemonic APPLY (see Figure 1), is to analyze the curriculum to select critical skills from an instructional unit.

APPLY: Thee Steps to Effective CBAs

Analyze the Curriculum

Educators select critical skills based on students' individualized education program (IEP) goals and objectives or general education curriculum competencies. Sources for curriculum analysis include national standards (i.e., science, math), state standards, and local school district standards. First, consider that a given curriculum is divided into instructional units, which are taught across grading periods, semesters, or the school year. Then, from each curriculum unit, the primary task during curriculum analysis is to narrow the scope of all possible skills targeted for learning in a unit and select the following:

Foundational skills (e.g., students need to identify vocabulary words in order to comprehend reading passages).

Pivotal competencies (e.g., students need to describe the steps in problemsolving so that they can then use the steps to solve problems).

Important principLes (e.g., students apply academic rules to a range of problem types) and concepts.

Ultimate outcomes (e.g., students can proficiently write persuasive paragraphs) .

Although many curriculum objectives may be taught, narrowing the scope to develop a brief CBA requires educators to focus on specific types of endpoints, or benchmarks, within a curricular unit. Curriculum analysis may initially be time consuming; but thoughtful planning at this stage about the curriculum and student outcomes enables educators to more strategically target the CBA content.

Prepare items to Meet the Curriculum Objectives

Critical skills that educators target during curriculum analysis drive the items used on a CBA probe. The probe itself can take on many formats, such as these:

A worksheet or computer software with math computations can be used to determine a student's acquisition and fluency with regrouping two-digit multiplication facts.

A student's writing can be measured by the number of required elements noted on the corresponding scoring rubric.

Comprehension of science terms can be measured by how many definitions a student accurately matches to terms, writes correct definitions from memory.

Completing a checklist noting how many steps a student correctly performs using the scientific process can indicate skill proficiency.

CBA probes contain items for students to respond to that can be observed and counted in some manner (e.g., writing the correct answer, orally describing problem-solving steps in order, identifying the rules and applying them to problem sets). Quantifying students' output is essential to the CBA process; correspondingly, CBA probe items enable students to more clearly identify targeted content and criteria for successful performance (see Table 1 for more examples of CBA content in various subjects).

Moreover, when teachers develop brief, timed CBA probes (e.g., the number of problems solved within one minute, defining a random selection of terms from a unit within 1 minute, writing responses to questions within 2 minutes), the time necessary to administer CBA is less likely to detract from instructional time and more likely to effectively guide instructional content. …

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