Curriculum-Based Assessment: Advantages & Disadvantages

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha has a Doctor of Education degree in math education and is currently working as a Information Technology Specialist.

Curriculum based assessment or measurement, also known as CBM is an assessment method that includes timed tests and questions to assess students based on the academic curriculum they have been taught in class. In this lesson we will learn some of the advantages and disadvantages of CBM.

Measuring Progress

Pam was a new teacher, and she wanted to know how the school implemented CBM or curriculum based measurement. The senior teacher Leslie explained to Pam the school considers CBM to be a useful tool to measure student progress in basic academic areas such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Each student takes a test or assessment based on the curriculum they are taught in the class. The student scores are plotted on a graph which makes it possible to see if the student has made any progress. The student scores can also be compared to expected scores to see where a student falls in academic achievements with respect to other students in the class.

Individualized Instruction

Pam wanted to know in what ways CBM could benefit the teacher and the student. Leslie was happy to explain that one way CBM has been useful is that the teacher can use CBM for self-evaluation purposes. The teacher could evaluate his or her instruction methods together with the academic performance of the students and use the information to improve teaching. If a teacher finds that a student has not made much progress in a subject, the teacher can use the scores of CBM to provide individualized instruction for the student in the areas in which they are weak.

Pam agreed that indeed CBM could be a useful tool for the teachers and shared with Leslie that in her own personal experience she has found that changing a teaching method, or increasing the time spent on instruction, or creating smaller groups of students were ways in which she could see how the teacher could use the CBM scores to help improve classroom instruction.

Historical Academic Report

Leslie then went on to explain to Pam, that CBM scores can be used to generate graphs as a historical representation of the student academic growth over a period of time. CBM graphs provide a visual display of the performance of the student in an easy to read format. CBM scores and graphs can also help to estimate student progress. If for some reason a student falls below the expected progress, an intervention can be conducted to help the student perform better in the weak subjects.

One great feature of CBM, both of them agreed, was the ability to predict future scores based on analyzing past student scores. This would be of immense help in making sure students stay on their expected path to academic success.

Curriculum is well planned

Another advantage of CBM, Leslie explained is that the curriculum is well planned and so the students are taught what they are supposed to learn and in the period of time that is allocated to them in the classroom. So for instance parents can be confident that their third-grade daughter is learning material of the same standards that would be expected for any third-grade child to know. The teacher does not have to focus on creating a new curriculum and so has more time to focus on the students and the teaching strategies. Since CBM is measured on the curriculum that is taught, the CBM scores will also accurately reflect the academic abilities of the student in relation to the curriculum.

The curriculum, not the instruction is evaluated

Pam was curious to know what Leslie thought about the idea that CBM evaluates only the curriculum and not the instruction. Leslie agreed that yes, based on the nature of the assessment questions since CBM assesses students only on the curriculum that they are supposed to have learned, it was certainly a possibility that the curriculum is what is mostly being tested.

Since individual teachers bring their personal methods of instruction and interactions to the classroom, it is likely that an assessment based purely on curriculum will not be able to measure teacher-student interactions and identify all the elements that can help to improve classroom interactivity.

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