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FORMATIVE EVALUATION OF ACADEMIC PROGRESS: HOW MUCH GROWTH CAN WE EXPECT?

Fuchs, Lynn S., Fuchs, Douglas, School Psychology Review, 02796015, 1993, Vol. 22, Issue 1

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine students' weekly rates of academic growth, or slopes of achievement, when Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) is conducted repeatedly over 1 year. Using standard CBM procedures in reading, spelling, or math, students in Year 1 (n = 546) were measured once each week; students in Year 2 (n = 2,511) were measured at least monthly. Results provided corroborating data across years and interesting patterns for different types of measures. Findings are discussed in terms of how to use normative slope data to establish appropriate goals for student outcomes. Implications also are discussed in terms of (a) how such norms can be developed for other ongoing assessment systems, (b) developing a technology for the measurement of student change, and (c) developmental theories of academic growth.

In September 1990 the president of the United States convened an historic education summit with the nation's governors at the University of Virginia -- the only time in our country's history that such a summit has been held to discuss issues pertaining to education. In his concluding remarks President Bush discussed the overwhelming need to establish "accountability for outcome-related results." In a related way, Ernest L. Boyer observed, "I think we've gone about as far as we can go in the current reform movement dealing with procedural issues.... Schools [should] be held accountable for outcomes rather than the current situation of heavy state regulation that 'nibbles' them to death over procedures" (see Elliot, 1989).

In response to this recent focus on student outcomes, most states have begun to devise strategies for holding schools more accountable for the achievement of their pupils within general education. New Jersey, for example, has begun to monitor school districts on student outcomes and will issue an annual "School Report Card" to publicize progress and achievement in every school. Governor's commissions in Kansas and Maryland have proposed accreditation systems that would measure student outcomes rather than rely solely on measures of procedural input (Elliot, 1989).

This distinction between procedural and outcome accountability is relevant not only to general education, but also to special services. Since 1975, when The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed, the field has witnessed a 15-year focus on procedural compliance (i.e., documenting that services are provided to individuals with disabilities). In 1990, however, in synchrony with the accountability movement within general education, the field began to refocus attention on the question of what students are learning rather than what services are being provided.

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