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Curriculum-based measurement and two models of follow-up consultation.


ABSTRACT: This investigation focused on the effects of two independent variables: (a) teacher-developed goals and monitoring systems versus a curriculum-based measurement (CBM) goal and monitoring system; and (b) individual expert versus group follow-up consultation. The dependent data were academic achievement measures. Subjects were 55 special education, elementary school students with mild and moderate disabilities randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: A, teacher-developed goal and progress monitoring with individual expert follow-up consultation; B, CBM goal and progress monitoring with individual expert follow-up consultation; C, teacher-developed goal and progress monitoring with group follow-up consultation; and D, CBM goal and progress monitoring with groupfollow-up consultation. Results showed that groups employing CBM and group consultation generally out-performed the other groups. Implications included expanded use of CBM goals and progress monitoring and continued study of collaboration as a method of CBM program implementation.

Two trends in the special education literature are the use of curriculum-based assessment and the growing role of consultation. This study addresses aspects of each of these. A specific type of curriculum-based assessment, curriculum-based measurement (CBM), serves as one of the independent variables. The second independent variable is the type of follow-up consultation model used by special educators as they attempt to improve their instructional programming for individual students. The rationale for studying these two variables is provided in the following sections.


CBM is a specific type of testing that emphasizes the relationship between measurement and instruction. Teachers repeatedly measure their students' performance on curricular materials using standardized measurement procedures. CBM data are reliable and valid when compared with widely used indicators of achievement, including achievement test scores, age, program placement, and teachers' judgment of competence (Deno, 1985). CBM is useful for making decisions about the effectiveness of instruction (Zigmond & Miller, 1986). Zigmond and Miller, who contrasted formal and informal assessment tools, concluded that CBM is the one tool that leads directly to a judgment about the effectiveness of various instructional strategies. Curriculum-based tests "mirror the curricular hierarchy and typically are derived from curriculum materials " (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1986). The measures can be used to identify specific skill deficiencies, guide additional instruction, and monitor instructional effectiveness.

Use of CBM, which is one type of formative evaluation, has led to significantly improved achievement for special education students (Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; Wesson, Skiba, Sevcik, King, & Deno, 1984). In a meta-analysis of over a dozen studies that examined the effects of formative evaluation, Fuchs and Fuchs (1986) found that the use of systematic formative evaluation procedures, both statistically and practically, significantly increased student achievement. They also noted that graphing the data produced superior results as opposed to recording it in a tabular format. This finding was attributed to the fact that the teachers may more accurately and frequently analyze the graphed data and that feedback to the students is more direct. Another benefit of CBM was that it lends itself to the development of data-based individual education plan (IEP) goals, which can become a useful tool in instructional planning. Thus far, the IEP, which is a legal requirement of Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, has served primarily as an administrative tool (Greenburg, 1984; Jaffe & Snelbecker (1982); Sixth Annual Report, 1984). The IEP, however, has been underused as an instructional tool, potentially another major function.

Tymitz (1981) found that teachers' goal statements tended to be either too vague or too specific to be relevant instructionally. The vague goals, such as "Johnny will improve in reading," provided no information as to how to measure progress on the goal. The overly specific goals, such as "when shown 20 CVC short a words, Johnny will read each word within 2 seconds with 85 percent accuracy, " forced teachers to generate such a massive number of goals that it was impossible for the teacher to continuously monitor the students' progress on all the goals.

If an IEP includes one specific and objective goal that lends itself to continuous monitoring and truly reflects academic growth, then the effectiveness of the IEP as an instructional tool may be enhanced. The goal and lesson plan could have directly relate to each other. Currently, in many school districts, the teacher's detailed instructional plans bear little or no relationship to the IEP (U.S. Department of Education, 1980). The CBM goal may contribute to improving the performance of students with mild and moderate disabilities because it lends itself to ongoing evaluation and record keeping. These goal statements can then become the focus of instruction and will be used to evaluate systematically the effectiveness of instruction. Thus, the IEP may serve as a powerful instructional tool.

Despite the success of CBM, some issues have yet to be resolved. First, in past studies, no research has assured that teachers in both control and experimental groups had equal access to the CBM instructional planning format and exposure to numerous instructional strategies. When this training is provided to all groups, the possibility can be ruled out that CBM groups had significantly greater achievement due to having larger repertoires of teaching ideas and a unique planning format. If one rules out planning as an independent variable, the effects of the intervention can be solely attributed to the CBM goal and progress-monitoring system.

Second, in past studies on CBM, teachers implementing progress-monitoring and program-modification procedures have had various forms of support after they began using the procedures. The fact that teachers have needed this support has been documented (Wesson et al., 1984), but the details of how to best provide this follow-up to initial training needs further investigation.


Follow-up consultation is a necessary component of CBM goal setting and progress monitoring. Past research shows that teachers are accurate in their development of goals and in collecting and graphing data (Wesson et al., 1984). However, it seems to be more difficult to train teachers to use the data. Using the data requires the teacher to make two decisions. First, teachers must be able to examine the data and make a decision about the effectiveness of their current instructional plan. if the data show that the plan is not having the desired effect, the teachers must decide to change their instruction. One function of the data is to help teachers decide when to change their instruction because their current instructional plan is no longer effective. The second decision involves making the actual change in instruction; namely, how should the instructional plan be modified? Past studies indicate that teachers tend to "decide not to decide" and hence continue with the same instructional plan even after the data reveal that the plan is ineffective. Therefore, follow-up consultation may be helpful if students are to receive optimal benefits of having CBM goals and a continuous measurement system. The follow-up consultation may help teachers make timely changes as well as provide teachers with a forum for sharing ideas about alternative instructional strategies.

In recent years, consultation has become an integral job function in the schools, especially within special education (Curtis & Zins, 1981; Idol & West, 1987; West & Idol, 1987). Consultation has been defined as "a cooperative relationship in which one professional helps another professional with work-related concerns" (Curtis & Anderson, 1976). Maximizing the effectiveness of consultation has evolved into an important challenge in the field of education. Martin (1981) has offered a frame of reference for developing a powerful consultation relationship. He suggested that there are two sources of consultation effectiveness: expert power and referent power. Expert power is attained when the consultee perceives that the consultant possesses skill and knowledge pertinent to the topic of consultation. Referent power evolves when the consultee perceives that the consultant has feelings, attitudes, and behaviors similar to his or her own. Martin proposed that the most successful consultants have a balance between expert and referent power.

These two types of consultation models are prevalent in the special education literature (Idol & West, 1987; Pugach & Johnson, 1988) and are investigated in this study. Some models of consultation place special educators in an expert role as they provide consultative services to their general education colleagues. Other models see consultation as less hierarchical and as a more lateral, collaborative activity. For example, Pugach and Johnson preferred that general educators collaborate with general educators and that similarly, special educators assist each other. The question of which model is most effective remains unresolved. The lateral consultation provided by the peer special educators may be more effective than the consultation provided by the university staff because of the referent power of the peer teachers. On the other hand, university personnel may have more expert power, but little referent power; thus the effectiveness of this hierarchical consultation model should also be investigated.

Given these two independent variables, the main research questions are as follows:

1. Are CBM goal and progress monitoring systems more effective than teacher-developed goal and monitoring systems in improving student academic achievement?

2. Is a group follow-up consultation model more effective than individual expert consultation in improving student academic achievement?



The subjects were 55 students with mild and moderate disabilities in grades 2-7 with the majority in grades 3 and 4 (grade 2, n = 1; grade 3, n = 14; grade 4, n = 28; grade 5, n = 8; grade 6, n = 3; grade 7, n = 1). The students were randomly selected from the caseloads of the participating teachers. Teachers placed the names of eligible students (those in grades 2-7 and being taught to read in a special education setting) in containers and then drew out one name. Thirty-four of the students were classified as learning disabled (LD), 3 as mentally retarded (MR), and 18 as emotionally disturbed (ED). Students met eligibility criteria in the state of Wisconsin. For the LD classification, the criteria were functioning below 50% of expected achievement in two or more academic areas and normal intellectual ability, with an IQ of about 90. For ED, the criteria were chronic, severe, and frequent behavior problems in two or more environments. The 3 MR students were identified by IQ 2 to 3 standard deviations below the mean. All students were randomly assigned to one of the four treatment conditions described in the "Procedures" section.

Originally, 15 students were in each group; but some attrition occurred due to illness and transiency. The student sample consisted of 35 males and 20 females distributed evenly by race: 27 minority and 28 White students. The average student had been receiving special education services for 2.38 years (SD = 1.58). Two students were new to special education.

The students' skill levels before treatment are summarized in Table 1. The different categorical labels are represented evenly across the four treatment groups.

Teachers from five districts were contacted by letter regarding their voluntary participation. Of the 55 teachers, 3 were male and 52 were female, 10 were Black and 45 were White. They averaged 1.24 years (SD = 3.03) of teaching regular education and 7.5 years (SD = 5.16) of teaching special education. Seventeen taught in an LD resource room, 18 in an LD self-contained room, 4 in an ED resource room, 13 in self-contained ED rooms, and 3 in self-contained EMR classrooms. One teacher was on an emergency ED license. The rest held appropriate teaching certificates: 22 LD; 12 ED; 3 EMR; 5 LD and ED; 7 LD and EMR; 2 ED and EMR; 1 LD, ED, and EMR; and 2 LD and speech therapy.


Data on the dependent variables were gathered on a pretest-posttest basis. The Structural Analysis and Reading Comprehension subtests of the green level of the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (Karlsen, Madden, & Gardner, 1976) were administered before and after the 5-month intervention. The green level is intended for use in grades 3 and 4. The Structural Analysis subtest assesses the ability to decode and analyze word parts. The two components of this test are word division (24 items) and blending (24 items). The two components of the Reading Comprehension subtest are literal and inferential comprehension. For both subtests, standardized scaled scores were used for statistical analyses.

The Passage Reading Test consisted of three 1-minute (min) oral reading measures. The randomly selected passages from the third-grade level in Ginn 720 were administered to the students at the beginning and at the end of the study (Fuchs et al., 1984). These measures were selected because of their technical adequacy (Deno, Mirkin, & Chiang, 1982) and sensitivity to change (Deno, 1985). These simple measures are as reliable and valid as traditional standardized tests and yet are more likely to reflect small increments in improvement. The measurements were conducted by directing students to begin reading aloud at the top of the page and continue reading until the end of the passage. If they came to a word they did not know, the examiner supplied the word and prompted them to continue. While the student read, the examiner followed along recording miscues, words misread or skipped over, and the number of words read correctly and incorrectly during the first minute. Separate passage scores and a total test score were calculated.


The four treatment conditions were as follows:

Treatment A-Teacher-developed goal and monitoring system and individual follow-up consultation (n = 13). For students assigned to this treatment condition, teachers developed and implemented their own goal and monitoring system.

Each teacher attended one 4-hour (hr) training session during which the teachers were taught to specify instructional plans using a format that specified procedures, materials, arrangement, time, and motivational strategies. The manual Specifying Instructional Plans (Wesson, Carter, Fisher, & Trednic, 1986) was distributed and discussed. Teachers shared with each other the methods they used for monitoring student progress and for teaching reading. After the training session, teachers wrote the student's goals for reading and developed the first instructional plan.

Follow-up consultation, provided by university staff, consisted of monthly visits, during which time the consultants reviewed the IEP goals with the teacher and ascertained to what extent these goals and objectives were being attained. If the teacher indicated unsatisfactory student progress, the consultant and the teacher discussed alternative techniques and materials for teaching reading. The university staff member followed a specified form to record the teacher's use of formal and informal measurement techniques to evaluate progress and notes about the teacher's process of decision making regarding changes in instruction. The expert consultation consisted of providing suggestions for improving instruction, such as discussing with the teacher the effects of practice time and giving specific ideas for increasing practice time such as paired reading, choral reading, and repeated reading strategies. Often teachers would pinpoint a specific skill the student needed to improve, and the consultant would find materials designed to provide practice on that skill.

The three consultants used in both individual consultation groups were experienced teachers who had been in expert roles before, such as in supervising student teachers. The consultants had also been coauthors of the instructional plan manual (Wesson et al., 1986).

Treatment B-CBM goal and monitoring system with individual follow-up consultantion (n = 15). Teachers whose students were assigned to this treatment received training on writing CBM goals, monitoring progress on the goals, and specifying instructional plans. These teachers received training in two 2-hr blocks spaced about I week apart. The specific procedures teachers were trained to implement included establishing an appropriate measurement level, writing longrange goals and short-term objectives, collecting three oral reading scores per week for each student, plotting the scores on a graph, and using the data in making decisions about the effectiveness of students' instructional programs (White & Haring, 1980).

All the directions for these tasks were included in the manual Procedures to Develop and Monitor Progress on IEP Goals (Mirkin et al., 1981). Teachers also received a copy of the manual Specifying Instructional Plans. Reading measurement consisted of 1-min timed samples of reading from the student's curriculum. Words correct were scored and charted on equal interval graphs. The grade level of the basal used for testing was the level from which the student could read aloud near or within 50-59 words correct per minute. Teachers were instructed to write longrange goals for the student's IEP using both the entry-level criterion and desired year-end mastery criterion, usually 90-150 words correct per minute with no more than 7 errors. The short-term objectives were stated in terms of the expected weekly increase in the number of words per minute. These teachers also learned to specify the instructional plan, as did Group A.

Following the training, approximately five individual sessions took place, during which university consultants provided feedback on the data-based IEP developed by the teacher as well as the student's progress and the instructional plan. The graphs were examined to determine if the plans were effective and if data were being collected in the correct manner. If a new plan was necessary, the teacher devised one with the consultant's input. A form, parallel to the one used in Treatment A, was used to help guide the conversation.

Treatment C--Teacher-developed goal and monitoring system with group follow-up consultation (n = 13). The initial 4 hr of training for this group was the same as the training for Treatment A and was done in one block of time. The follow-up consultation was on approximately the same schedule, once per month for the 5-month study, but the format was different. Teachers whose students were assigned to this group met in groups of three. The groups were composed based on proximity and work schedules. During the approximately 1-hr-long meetings, teachers shared their ideas about instruction and progress monitoring. They filled out a consultation meeting form, which helped to structure their conversations. The form asked them to address issues such as the appropriateness of their instruction, the student's progress, and changes they planned to make in the instruction. The form was the same one that was used by the consultants in Treatment A. Teachers asked each other if they were having difficulty with any aspect of reading instruction for their targeted student. If a problem was identified, the group brainstormed ideas about what changes in instruction might be useful. They also discussed how the change selected by the initiating teacher could be made.

Treatment D--CBM goal and monitoring system with group follow-up consultation (n = 14). The initial 4 hr of training for this group was the same as for Treatment Group B, and the follow-up consultation was the same as for Treatment Group C. The training took place in two 2-hr blocks spaced about I week apart.


Fidelity of Treatment Two indexes were used to ascertain the extent to which treatment fidelity was maintained. First, the forms teachers completed as they met in groups and the forms used by the expert consultants were counted to determine how many times the follow-up consultation occurred. The average number of consultation sessions per treatment group member were 5.0 for Treatment A, 4.7 for Group B, 5.0 for Group C, and 4.8 for Group D. Teachers indicated in a survey that the consultation format was clear and addressed most of their concerns.

The second index of fidelity of treatment applied only to Groups B and D. For these groups, the Accuracy of Implementation Rating Scale (AIRS) (King, Deno, Mirkin, & Wesson, 1983), which was used twice, depicts how precisely teachers were using the CBM goal and monitoring system. The AIRS is set up on a 1 to 5 Likert scale, with 5 being a high degree of implementation. The results of the 12-item scale are shown in Table 2. As the data indicate, the two problematic facets of implementation related to the changes the teachers made. The changes were rated low on substantial change and clear change. These results are similar to those of past studies (Wesson et al., 1984).

Dependent Measures

An analysis of variance (ANOVA) on the gain scores of the achievement measures was used to ascertain the relative effectiveness of the four treatment groups. Table 3 displays the F and p values for these analyses. Passage I on the Passage Reading Test (F = 4.004, p = .12) and the Total Words Read correctly on the Passage Reading Test (F = 3.447, p =.023) yielded statistically significant results among the four treatment groups. Combining the treatment groups to compare university consultation versus group follow-up consultation did not result in any significant ANOVA findings. However, when combining Groups A and C and Groups B and D, which was a comparison of CBM groups versus traditional groups, again the gain scores for Passage I (F = 8.815, p = .004) and the Total Words Read correctly on the Passage Reading Test (F = 6.167, p = .0 16) were statistically significant. Table 4 details the means and standard deviations for the four groups. Figure I shows the mean gain scores for each treatment group. Gain scores on Passage I and total words for Treatment Group D were superior to those of the other three groups. The follow-up t-tests are detailed in Table 5.

No statistically significant results were found when analyzing the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test scaled scores. The F scores and p values appear in Table 3, and the means and standard deviations are shown in Table 4.


The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of different goal-setting and progress-monitoring strategies (teacher developed and CBM) and different follow-up consultation formats (university consultant versus group follow-up consultation). Implications of the findings and directions for future research are discussed here.

Summary and Implications

Goal and progress monitoring stategies. In general, on the Passage Reading Test, the students in the CBM groups made more progress than did students in the teacher-developed goals groups. The treatment group that exceeded the others significantly on one reading passage and on the total for the Passage Reading Test was the CBM goal and progress-monitoring and group follow-up consultation. These findings support the hypothesis that CBM goal progress-monitoring procedures result in significantly better achievement rates for students. Not all achievement measures yielded significant results, but there was a fairly consistent pattern of higher achievement on the Passage Reading Test for the CBM goal groups. The Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test yielded no significant findings or discernible pattern in the gain score results.

The special education literature reports similar results regarding the effect of CBM on student achievement (Fuchs et al., 1984; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1986). The rationale for CBM procedures is that teachers will use the data to evaluate their instruction; and, given the data, teachers will improve in their choices of instructional techniques for individual students. Whether this actually occurs is uncertain (Wesson et al., 1984). The effects of CBM, in fact, may result from the extra practice time and increased individual time spent with the teacher as a function of measurement. Further research on the accuracy of CBM implementation and research, ferreting out possible practice effects, is warranted. However, given the consistency of the effects of CBM, the implications are that students will benefit when teachers employ a CBM goal and progress-monitoring strategy. Increasing the numbers of special education teachers who are trained to use CBM should become a major in service and preservice goal.

Teachers who were not using CBM relied on basal mastery tests, analysis of daily work, and observation to judge student progress. The reading goals these teachers wrote were similar to those described earlier (Tymitz, 1981).

Consultation formats. When Groups A-B and C-D are combined, neither consultation format seems superior to the other on any dependent measure. It is clear that the CBM goal and progress-monitoring strategy and the group consultation treatment group (D) outperformed the group who had teacher-developed goal and progress-monitoring strategies and group consultation on the Passage Reading Test. Teachers meeting in groups without CBM goals and measurement systems (Treatment B) indicated on some of their consultation forms that they did not understand the purpose of their meetings. Some of them made phone calls to the research team to verbalize difficulty in helping each other. Even though they had a series of questions to respond to on their Group Consultation form, they felt as if they did not know what to talk about. On the other hand, the teachers in Treatment D had graphs to discuss and specific comments about the progress of their target student. The research team did not hear teachers in Group D express concerns about meeting with each other. In fact, they stated informally that they enjoyed the opportunity to share with other teachers.

To reiterate, no dependent measures yielded significant results when the consultation format was examined by combining treatment groups. Given this, educational administrators may favor the group consultation format because it most likely would be the most cost-effective measure. To parallel expert consultation conditions in the schools, administrators would need to hire experts and pay substantial fees. To have groups of teachers meet together may be a more cost-effective option. One difficulty in making comparisons between group and expert consultation is the judgment of who and what is expert. In the present study, the expert consultants all had at least 5 years of special education teaching experience and high evaluations from their supervisors. No problems regarding the skills of the consultants were presented by any of the participating teachers.

On the Passage Reading Test, students in the group consultation treatment group using CBM goals and progress-monitoring strategies out-scored the CBM group, who met with university consultants. Perhaps teachers in Group D were more amenable to the input they received for changing instruction as the input came from peers as opposed to expert consultants (Treatment B). The hierarchical, top-down structure of the expert model of consultation may prompt teachers to be less receptive than the lateral, peer-to-peer model of referent consultation.


This study had several limitations that need to be addressed. First, the results were significant only for two dependent measures. Many measures, notably the standardized reading test, showed no statistically significant difference. Second, the expert consultants, though experienced and skillful, had no supervisory or administrative status. Therefore, their suggestions and problem-solving efforts may have had less impact than similar ideas expressed by an expert with some clout. Third, a variation of the consultation model has yet to be tried; specifically an expert consultant meeting with a group of teachers and guiding them through a problem-solving process. Finally, the expert consultants had minimal training in problem identification and problem solving; this lack of training may have impacted the results found here.


An implication from this study is that as districts train teachers to use the CBM procedures, ongoing discussions between groups of teachers should be encouraged. The optimal size and composition of the group, the frequency of meetings, and the best procedures for running these groups have yet to be determined. The results of this study, however, indicate that group follow-up consultation is superior to expert consultation when CBM procedures are being employed.


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Deno, S., Mirkin, P., & Chiang, B. (1982). Identifying valid measures of reading. Exceptional Children, 49, 347.

Fuchs, L., Deno, S., & Mirkin, P. K. (1984). The effects of frequent curriculum-based measurement and evaluation on pedagogy, student achievement, and student awareness of learning. American Educational Research Journal, 21(2),449-460.

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Martin, R. (198 1). Expert and referent power: A framework for understanding and maximizing consultation effectiveness. In M. J. Curtis & J. E. Zins (Eds.), The theory andpractice of school consultation. pp. xx-xx Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas

Mirkin, P., Deno, S., Fuchs, L. S., Wesson, C., Tindal, G., Marston, D., & Kuehnle, K. (1981). Propcedures to develop and monitor progress on IEP goals. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities.

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CAREN L. WESSON (CEC Chapter #56 ) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Manuscript received October 1988; revision accepted May, 1989.

Exceptional Children, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 246-256 [c] 1990 The Council for Exceptional Children.
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Date:Dec 1, 1990
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