Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) is the best-known method of student progress monitoring. CBM helps teachers find out how students are progressing in basic academic areas such as math, reading, writing and spelling.
CBM can be helpful to parents because it provides current, week-by-week information on the progress their child is making. When a teacher uses CBM, he or she finds out how well a student is progressing in learning the content for the academic year. CBM also monitors the success of the instruction that student is receiving—if student performance is not meeting expectations, the teacher then changes the way of teaching that student to try to find the type and amount of instruction needed to make sufficient progress toward meeting the academic goals.
How Does CBM Work?
When CBM is used, the student is tested briefly each week. The tests generally last from 1 to 5 minutes. The teacher counts the number of correct and incorrect responses made in the time allotted to find the student's score. For example, in reading, the student may be asked to read aloud for one minute. His or her score is recorded on a graph and compared to the expected performance on the content for that year. The graph allows the teacher and parents to see quickly how the student's performance compares to expectations.
After the scores are entered on the graphs, the teacher decides whether to continue instruction in the same way, or to change it. A change is called for if the student's rate of learning progress is lower than is needed to meet the goal for the year.
The teacher can change instruction in any of several ways. For example, he or she might increase instructional time, change a teaching technique or way of presenting the material, or change a grouping arrangement. After the change, the teacher and parents can see from the weekly scores on the graph whether the change is helping the student. If it is not, then the teacher can try another change in instruction, and its success will be tracked through the weekly measurements.
Why Use CBM?
CBM is helpful for students, parents, and teachers. Here are some of the benefits:
- CBM graphs provide a clear picture of the student's progress toward an academic goal for the school year.
- CBM graphs can help create a common understanding among parents, teachers, administrators, and other professionals (such as school psychologists).
- CBM graphs can increase productive communication at conferences and IEP meetings. They can also be useful in developing better goals and objectives for the IEP.
- CBM graphs can help teachers modify their instructional methods so that they are more effective in improving progress toward the stated goals.
- Parents can feel confident that CBM is an accurate indicator of their child's progress for the skills that are being measured. There is sound research backing CBM, as well as years of successful use in public schools.
- Because of the visual record that graphs provide, students can keep track of their own progress; in addition, seeing their graph change week by week often motivates students to work harder toward their goals.
What If CBM Is Not Currently Implemented?
Parents may need to advocate for CBM to be adopted if it is not currently in use in their child's classroom. Interested parents can bring CBM information to the teacher, discuss it, and encourage the teacher to consider adopting it. Interested teachers can learn how to get started by reading Implementing CBM in the Classroom.
More information about CBM is available at National Center on Student Progress Monitoring.
Adapted from the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring articles: "What Is Curriculum-Based Measurement And What Does It Mean to My Child?";"Fact Sheet: Benefits of Curriculum Based Measurement"; and "What Can I Do to Make Sure My Child Receives the Benefits of CBM?" - all written by Kathleen McLane.