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2.3: Using Curriculum-Based Measures

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    CBM is a powerful problem-solving tool that allows educators to make informed decisions regarding the instruction of students who are at-risk. As noted earlier, CBM are not used for grades and are not quizzes, rather they are means for collecting data on students and monitoring their progress. Though a majority of the research on CBM involves the early grades, CBM can be used throughout the schooling process. The remainder of this chapter will focus on the utilization of CBM in grades six through twelve.

    CBM Probes





    Selecting an Appropriate CBM

    The first consideration when utilizing CBM is deciding which measure to use. There are a great many measures to choose from, and developers who have tested the reliability, test-retest reliability, and validity of these measures (See Figure 2). Many of these measures come with a price tag, however many do not, and some can be developed by the teacher. However, it is important that when deciding on a measure, the teacher take the following into consideration.

    First, teachers should determine the specific set of skills for the student to master in the subject over the school year and decide on an appropriate CBM covering those skills. A set of measures (probes) should cover the existing curriculum across the school year (Deno, 1985). Next, it is important for each probe to measure the same concepts with the same difficulty. For example, in a set of math probes covering the school year, each probe may consist of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is also important that enough probes are developed so that students do not remember the questions being given. For example, easyCBM (2014) generally has 10 to 12 measures for each grade level and construct of examination (e.g., passage reading fluency). Many of the measures listed in Figure 2 will also give an idea of the type of measure appropriate for certain grade or ability levels. However, it is up to the teachers to make individual decisions based on the students’ ability and curriculum. Fuchs, Fuchs, and Hamlett (2015) outlined another use of CBM that seems obvious but is not utilized enough by teachers. That being: utilizing CBM for the construction of goals in the students’ IEP. A key feature of progress monitoring is not only to chart a students’ progress, but also to track that students’ achievement against a predetermined goal. For example, it would be impractical, and a waste of information and time, to monitor a students’ progress without knowledge of what would constitute adequate progress. Is improvement of one word per week enough in the fifth grade on a measure of oral reading fluency? Two words? No improvement? How do we know what to make of this information we’re gathering, if we don’t know what progress should be achievable?

    A number of methods can be used to determine an appropriate goal. Perhaps the most common would be to use benchmarks developed by the specific maker of the CBM assessment. For example, let’s look at Timmy’s graph. On a measure of oral reading fluency (ORF) in the Fall, Timmy read 123 words correct in one minute. After determining he was at-risk by scoring below the 25th percentile, CBM probes in ORF were delivered every week. Once the third week is assessed, we determine Timmy’s baseline score by utilizing the median score for the last three probes. The score was 122. We then consult the benchmarks for the students in grade 7 and find that by spring, a score above the 25th percentile in ORF would be > 136 words read correctly in one minute. Thus, we can set a goal of more than 136 words read correctly in one minute by the spring. We then draw a line from the third week starting at the median score (122) and rising to the end of the year and ending at 136. This represents Timmy’s goal line, and we can monitor his progress against this goal visually by charting his future goal.

    Another method for determining rate of progress is to consult the literature and determine normal rates of progress based on national norms. According to Fuchs and colleagues (1993), students above the 5th grade should make approximately ½ words of improvement per week. Thus, if we take Timmy’s median score of 122 and assume 30 weeks of school are left, we would add 15 (30 weeks x .5 words per week) to Timmy’s score ending at a goal of 137.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Using CBM to Inform IEP Goals

    One of the cornerstones of providing a student with a free appropriate public education is the individual education program (Yell, Katsitannis, Ennis, Losinski, & Christle, 2016). The IEP is the document that describes the needs of the child as well as the services the child will receive to meet those needs. However, as Fuchs and colleagues describe, the IEP should not be inundated with an inordinate amount of goals, particularly within one content area. This was reiterated by Bateman and Linden (1998) who suggest that if several skills are missing within one area, a better solution is to write a broad, overarching goal with objectives meeting each of those skills. CBM meets both of these objectives by allowing a number of skills in one content area to be measured within one quick, reliable, and easy to use assessment. For example, oral reading fluency has been shown to be areliable indicator of overall reading proficiency. Therefore, for some students it could be utilized as a broad reading goal that captures all the requisite skills needed by the student in reading.

    To develop a goal utilizing CBM, one would utilize the same approach discussed earlier, however instead of determining how many weeks are left in the school year, you would substitute the number of school weeks in one academic year. This number is often 36 weeks, or 180 schooldays, though some school districts may provide more than the 180-day school year.

    When to Administer CBM Probes

    Decisions about when to administer CBM probes depend on a number of factors. The first factor is based on the measure itself and how much growth could be seen over time. For example, with oral reading fluency in the third grade we could expect to see one and a half to two words of growth per week. Therefore, weekly administration of this probe is appropriate. However, with many math measures growth over a week would be much smaller, and therefore it would not be appropriate to measure so frequently. Another factor to be considered is the number of students to be tested and the schedule of the teacher. Some of these probes, particularly math and reading comprehension in the later grades have group or online administration. While at the early grades, letter sound fluency could only be administered by the teacher one-on-one. Most CBM measures acquired from the company or research institution (e.g., AIMSWEB, easyCBM) will list the appropriate amount of time between administrations for each measure. A rule of thumb for the frequency of administration of CBM probes is every two weeks, but not less frequently then every three weeks. Administering probes every two weeks allows enough time between probes to monitor growth, but does not allow so much time to pass that we miss an opportunity to adjust instructional approach.

    Administration of CBM Measures

    Careful administration of CBM probes is necessary to ensure that effects other than those tested are minimized. For example, it is necessary to make sure that whatever scripts are read beforehand are read in their entirety each time. This ensures a standard approach to the assessments, and also minimizes the risk that the student may forget certain aspects of the assessment. Additionally, it is vital that the setting, time of day, and instruments used are as consistent as possible. Considerations of these contextual factors will help to ensure that student scores on these measures are not varying based on outside influences. For example, a student with ADHD who takes medication, that is not an extended release (XR) form, in the morning will likely score very differently in the afternoon than they would in the morning.

    Most CBM probes come with a standardized administration protocol that administrators are to use each time the assessment is given to a child. This would depend on whether or not it’s done one-to-one, in a small group, or taken on a computer. In the following, we will describe common administration techniques for CBM probes that are likely to be given to students in secondary schools as well as scoring procedures.

    Directions and scoring of oral reading fluency

    The first consideration with oral reading fluency is that it must be given individually. The passages selected for the student should be based on those passages that the student is expected to read fluently at the end of the school year. Once passages have been selected, a copy of each is given. One to the student and one to the teacher. The teacher will also need a timer and something to write with.

    1. Place a copy of the student passage in front of the student.
    2. Place a teacher copy on the clipboard so the student cannot see it.
    3. Say:’ When I say begin, start reading aloud at top top of the page. Read across the page. Try to read each word. If you come to a word you do not know, I’ll tell it to you. Be sure to do your best reading. Do you have any questions? Begin.’ (start the stopwatch)
    4. Follow along on the teacher copy as the student reads and put a slash through any incorrect words.
    5. At the end of one minute, say ‘thank you’ and mark the last word read with a bracket (Hosp, Hosp, & Howell, 2007, pp. 36-37).

    To score the CBM, count the total number of words attempted, then the total number of errors. Subtract the total number of errors from the total words attempted. Words misread initially but corrected within three seconds are scored as correct.

    Directions and scoring MAZE CBM

    Unlike oral reading fluency, maze passages can be administered to a group. Maze passages should be at the level of difficulty that the student is expected to achieve by the end of the year. These passages should be at least 300 words with 42 deleted words (with three replacements in each). Maze passages can either be downloaded pre-constructed, or materials from school can be scanned in and entered into a Maze generator at As with oral reading fluency, the teacher will need a stopwatch. Directions are as follows:

    1. Place a copy of the student passage in front of each student face down.
    2. Say: ‘ When I say begin, turn to the first story and start reading silently. When you come to a group of three words, circle the one word that makes the most sense. Work as quickly as you can without making mistakes. If you finish the page, turn the page and keep working until I say stop. Do you have any questions? Begin. (trigger stopwatch or timer for three minutes)
    3. Walk around the room to monitor that students are only circling one word per set and not skipping around the page.
    4. At the end of the three minutes say ‘Stop. Put your pencil down and turn your sheet over.’
    5. Collect all the student sheets. (Hosp, Hosp, & Howell, 2007, pp. 43)

    Scoring of the Maze CBM is conducted by referencing the examiner copy and counting the number of errors in the student copy. Specifically, count the total number of responses attempted in three minutes. Then count the number of errors, and subtract the number of errors from total attempted.

    Directions and scoring of math CBM

    Math CBM can be administered either as a group or via computer. It is recommended that the first-time math CBM is administered, students take three equivalent assessments in a short period of time (e.g., over three days) with the median score being used as their baseline. Once again the teacher should have a timer and the directions. Directions are as follows:

    1. Place a copy of the student sheet in front of the students.
    2. For single student say, ‘ The sheets on your desk have [ addition, subtraction etc.] problems on them. Look at each problem carefully before you answer it. When I say ‘please begin,’start answering the problems. Begin with the first problem and work across the page. Then go to the next row. If you cannot answer the problem, mark an ‘X’ through it and go to the next one. If you finish a page turn the page and continue working until I say ‘thank you.’Are there any questions? Please begin.
    3. Once you say ‘please begin,’ start the countdown timer (set for two minutes). At the end of two minutes say ‘thank you’ and have the students put their pencils down and stop working. (Hosp, Hosp, & Howell, 2007, pp. 104)

    For math CBM, we score the correct number of digits in the answer rather than the correct answer because it is more sensitive to change. For example, say Timmy wrote an answer of 143 for an addition problem, but the actual solution to the problem was 133. Timmy would receive two digits correct on this problem (1) and the second (3).

    This page titled 2.3: Using Curriculum-Based Measures is shared under a CC BY-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mickey Losinski (New Prairie Press/Kansas State University Libraries) .

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