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Implementing CBM In the Classroom

Curriculum Based Measurement-Student Monitoring There are many benefits to using Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM). It helps teachers plan effective instruction, estimate and document student progress, and communicate with parents or other professionals about student progress. Moreover, CBM data can help teachers improve the academic growth of at-risk students or students with learning disabilities who may need a change of instruction or additional services.

Teachers may use CBM to:

  • identify skills with which students are having the most difficulty
  • compare the effectiveness of different instructional strategies
  • identify students who are not making adequate progress in a general education setting and may need special education services
  • track progress toward Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals for students receiving special education services.

Steps in the CBM Process

To implement curriculum-based measurement, a teacher can use the following steps.

Step 1

Create or select appropriate tests (called probes) for the student's grade and skill level. Each probe contains different but equivalent items and assesses skills taught from the beginning of the year to those taught at the end of the year. As the year progresses, children should get more items correct on each subsequent probe.

Step 2

Administer and score probes at regular intervals (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly). Probes are administered and scored the same way every time to ensure that the scores are reliable (likelihood that a student will achieve a similar score if the test was re-administered) and valid (likelihood that the targeted skills are the ones being tested).

Step 3

Graph the scores. Graphing is an integral part of using CBM. By seeing their progress in such an easily understood format, students can see the relationship between their effort and progress in learning. Teachers can also make instructional decisions more quickly by looking at a student's graph versus a list of scores.

Step 4

Set goals indicating the expected level of proficiency students will demonstrate by the end of the school year and the amount of growth expected in shorter periods of time, such as weekly goals.

Step 5

Make instructional decisions based on CBM data. Teachers can determine if an educational intervention is working or needs to be changed.

Step 6

Communicate progress to students, parents, and other educational professionals throughout the school year using CBM data and graphs.

Finding Probes for Progress Monitoring

Probe items can be randomly selected from the entire year's curriculum, or you can use commercially available probes. Some research groups offer free probes. There are probes to measure progress in pre-reading, reading, math, spelling, and writing. Below are just a few examples of the different types of probes available.

Letter Sound Fluency

The child is given a sheet of randomized letters and asked to say as many sounds corresponding to the letters as possible in one minute. This test must be administered to each child individually.

Word Identification Fluency

The child is asked to read as many words as possible in one minute. This test must be administered to each child individually.


The child is presented computational problems systematically sampled from the entire year's curriculum. The child is given a short amount of time (based on the child's grade level) to finish as many problems as possible. The child's score is the number of correctly placed digits. This test can be administered to a group of children.


The child writes up to twenty dictated words randomly sampled from the entire year's curriculum. The child is given ten seconds to write each dictated word. The test lasts two to three minutes and the child's score is the number of correct letter sequences. This test can be administered to a group of children.


The child is given a story starter and asked to write for three to five minutes in response to a story starter. The student's score is the number of correct pairs of words written. To be counted as correct, the word pairs must be grammatically and semantically appropriate and spelled correctly. This test can be administered to a group of children.

For more detailed information about implementing CBM in the classroom, visit The IRIS Center's web-based module entitled Classroom Assessment: An Introduction to monitoring academic achievement in the classroom.

Adapted from "Module: Classroom Assessment: An introduction to monitoring academic achievement in the classroom" by The IRIS Center for Faculty Enhancement of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Used here with permission.