Julia Scherba de Valenzuela, Ph.D.
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Definitions of Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA)

The following definition comes from: Witt, J. C., Elliot, S. N., Daly III, E. J., Gresham, F. M., & Kramer, J. J. (1998). Assessment of at-risk and special needs children. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

"The term curriculum-based assessment (CBA) means simply measurement that uses "direct observation and recording of a student's performance in the local curriculum as a basis for gathering information to make instructional decisions" (Deno, 1987, p. 41). ...The process of CBA has also been referred to as direct assessment of academic skills, and many different models all have in common the basic assumption that one should test what one teaches. Typically, these approaches have emphasized direct, repeated assessment of academic target behaviors (Lentz, 1988b). In each academic area, probes are developed (e.g. brief reading passages, short spelling lists, samples of math items from the curriculum, etc.) and these probes are used to collect data on student performance. These probes are developed from the books or materials that make up the child's curriculum. Hence, the CBA provides a structured way to see how well a child performs on the materials the teachers is assigning the class. The assumption is that if we want to know whether children are progressing in reading and writing, then we should observe (or count) their behavior as the read and write in school, and we should collect this data as often as feasible so that we quickly know whether a child is making progress or falling behind" (p. 121-122).

The next definition comes from: Idol, L., Nevin, A., & Paolucci-Whitcomb, P. (1996). Models of curriculum-based assessment (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

"All CBA's, regardless of the type of curricula, are constructed in the same general way. First, sample items are selected from the curriculum or constructed to match the curriculum. These items are then ordered by difficulty and combined within a single test, which is given on the first day of assessment (Day 1). Then, two or more forms of the same test, containing similar items and identical orders of difficulty, are constructed; these are administered on the second and third days of testing (Days 2 and 3). It is highly recommended that the assessment be conducted in this way, on three different forms on three separate occasions, to control for sporadic student response (White & Liberty, 1976), a characteristic typical of special needs learners.
        In administering the CBA, the teacher tests the students across several levels of the curriculum. Ordinarily, student responses are measured for speed or proficiency, as well as for accuracy. A CBA assessment form is developed to record the student responses. Performance criteria are then established to determine acceptable levels of student performance or mastery. These criteria should be established collaboratively, with the classroom teacher and the consulting teacher (learning specialist) functioning as an assessment team...
        Normative sampling is a useful procedure for establishing mastery criteria (Idol, 1993). This procedure involves taking samples of average and acceptable student performance in the mainstreamed class as a basis for deciding what the absolute mastery criteria ought to be. Sometimes, a targeted student may be so far below the levels of acceptable performance that a type of changing criterion design might have to be implemented. Such a design would allow the mastery criteria to reflect the classroom average, would permit a lowering of the criteria for subsequent instruction, and then allow the criteria to be made more stringent until he or she reached the changed classroom average.
        Once this type of social validation has occurred and the mastery criteria have been established, the CBA is administered, either to individual student or to groups of students" (p. 4).


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Last updated: July 30, 2002