students who suffer difficulties represent a small portion of the general education class; other times, larger portions of the class experience problems.
When small subgroups of a class (i.e., one-three pupils) are identified as problematic, the CBM norms can be used in a similar manner as described within special education settings: to carefully track the individual's rate of growth and determine when goals can be increased and when individual adjustments in instructional programs are warranted. When larger groups of a classroom are involved, however, focusing on individual students to determine differentiated instruction can be logistically difficult. In such cases, the CBM database can be used to help teachers target their large- and small-group instruction to meet the needs of all students in the class more effectively. Additionally, the combination of CBM with classwide peer tutoring represents one strategy for providing differentiated instruction within the context of general education (see Fuchs, 1992 for description of general education CBM applications).
Finally, the CBM database can be used to describe and account for student outcomes. By comparing individual weekly rates of growth to normative rates of improvement, judgments about the adequacy of individual progress can be formulated. In a related way, the average rate of growth for a classroom can be compared to normative information to evaluate the quality of the overall instructional program within the classroom.
Providing a Methodology for Other Formative Teaching Systems and Contributing to a Technology for the Measurement of Change
With respect to the second purpose, this study offers a methodology that researchers may use to develop similar norms for other formative teaching systems. Within the current educational reform movement, which stresses accountability for student outcomes, information about appropriate standards for judging student progress is critical. With formative teaching systems (as illustrated above for CBM), information is provided on an ongoing basis, so that service providers can use measurement not only for end-of-year summative decisions about the adequacy of student growth, but also for formative decision making to enhance those outcomes. Norms that provide realistic standards for evaluating growth are necessary for making these summative, as well as formative, decisions about the adequacy of individual, class, school, or district outcomes.
The current study also contributes to the development of technology for measuring student change, as it offers an illustrative methodology by which normative information for other formative teaching systems can be developed. With formative teaching systems, such as CBM, student performance is measured repeatedly (i.e., 1-2 times per week) on equivalent tests representing the year-long curriculum. These measurements, therefore, are comparable at any two points in time during the academic year; consequently, weekly rates of growth can be computed. The traditional approach of district level, annual, one-shot testing on commercial standardized achievement tests provides limited information with which to describe change or to formulate improvements in instructional plans. By contrast, the method for describing student change presented in this article is novel and useful; it represents a potentially important contribution to a technology of measuring pupil progress, which can be used in a formative way to improve instruction and learning outcomes.