Curriculum Based Measurements (CBMs) play an important role in determining the progress that a student is making in terms of a specific skill they are learning. These measurements can be administered quickly and provide effective information for making educational decisions to benefit the student (Deno, 2003). The CBM is also helpful in ensuring that the student is receiving instruction that is tailored to meet their unique needs and that the instruction is altered if the student is not making the expected progress.
These changes can be seen easily on a CBM and instructional decisions can be made quickly based off of CBM administration. Teaching a set curriculum and assessing it regularly is the most effective way of supporting students at the early childhood level. Common Core State Standards provide standards to reach toward, however, the level of expectation is outside what we know students at this level can achieve, as was apparent in the example given in Main’s article above. Main also demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the standards by explaining, Even if the Common Core standards were superior, the standards alone are not sufficient for appropriate implementation.
Early learning standards require effective curriculum, classroom practices, and teaching strategies that connect the interests and abilities of the children to promote their development and learning (NAEYC, 2002). This demonstrates how we cannot use the standard alone and expect great outcomes from our students. Not only do the standards demand more than our students are developmentally prepared for, the CCSS are also impractical to the classroom teacher because they are assessed only on standardized tests that are given infrequently. Such limited data does not support the classroom practices, curriculum and teaching strategies that Main suggests are imperative to Early Childhood Education. If the standards are taught, but are too difficult for our students and the data from these tests that evaluate their progress toward the standard is not readily available, we cannot craft meaningful instruction for our students. This means by the time we teach, assess and evaluate the data, so much time has passed we can no longer effectively provide intervention or tailor instruction to meet the needs of varied students. With the implementation of CCSS, teachers are now experiencing a juggling act that is requiring them to teach and evaluate these standards while they also trying to deliver the instruction they know their students actually need. In reality, this means that teachers are having to adapt the standards in order for their students to have success with them. Perhaps more effective than expecting teachers to interpret and adjust these standards for all their students would be to provide teachers the ability to structure their own standards, developed around their curriculum and assess these standards regularly therefore delivering more effective intervention and instruction. This is consistent with the NAEYC’s stance on creating Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) in the classroom and most educators understand the implementation and importance of these practices over the CCSS. However, in order to do this successfully, it is vital that the teacher understands how incorporate CBMs and intervention into the classroom and how to evaluate the data that corresponds to the administration of the CBM. When this is done, a student’s progress is much more easily tracked and progress is much more likely for the student than would be just through the exposure of the student to CCSS. To demonstrate the importance of teaching to the student and using CBMs effectively, I would like to highlight the example of a typical performing student within my school, who will be called Leonel, and will show how the implementation of CBMs to inform his instruction helped him to achieve more. This will demonstrate the overall effectiveness of CBMs in ECE and promote the use of tailored instruction based on the curriculum and need of the student, rather than focusing solely on the standard. Leonel is a second-grade student who is having trouble in his math class. This may not be because Leonel has a learning disability or any other issue that is preventing him from making gains, this struggle in math is typical for most children Leonel’s age due to the extreme variance between what we know is appropriate for the age level and the expectations we have based on the standards. The difference between capability (what the student is developmentally prepared to do) and demand (what the standard is asking our students to do) has been clearly outlined throughout this paper, however, looking closely at Leonel and his classroom experience can create a clearer picture of how we can help our students achieve, even when we know the standard may be out of reach. Leonel’s teacher, Ms. Montoya has been tracking his progress using CBMs. So far Leonel’s performance in math is as follows: This graph was constructed according to the directions that were given by Hosp & Hosp (2003). This means the data points were gathered and graphed based on student performance on a Curriculum Based Measure used by the teacher to gauge the students understanding of addition facts. The graph shows the number of correct digits scored (vertically) and the weeks the CBMs were given (horizontally). Then an ambitious growth rate of .5 digits per week (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlett, Walz & Germann, 1993) was used to calculate the slope line on the graph. This slope line uses the median score, ambitious growth rate and weeks left in the school year in a formula to estimate what the student should be performing at by the end of the year. Setting a goal like this is much more realistic for a student like Leonel, than to just expect proficiency of the standard. Also, seeing this data allows us to determine if Leonel is making expected gains and working toward meeting his goal or if instruction needs further modification to allow for Leonel to make more progress. Using this model will allow for the teacher to make quick decisions about Leonel’s progress and to structure targeted instruction for Leonel based on the information provided by the CBM. Since the teacher can quickly look at this graph and see that Leonel is making good progress toward this goal then it may be decided to simply continue with his interventions as they are being performed right now while continuing to progress monitor. If Leonel were to dip below that slope or make a downward trend away from his goal, then we would need to adjust instruction further because we would have immediate feedback that the interventions were not working. If the teacher was not using this method of providing intervention and assessing regularly with CBMs, then the only assessment Leonel would receive would be district or state mandated standardized tests based on the CCSS. In this case, it may take several weeks to months for data to be derived from the testing and Leonel would not receive tailored instruction immediately. This would result in continued growth of his deficit. This is why it is important that we continually progress monitor even when the students are seeming to do well. This also demonstrates how working toward mastery of CCSS is not sufficient support for our students. When data is analyzed along with CBMs it makes it easier for the teacher to determine where the struggle is occurring for student. Once this is determined, the teacher can quickly adjust their teaching and provide more effective strategies for the student. Leonel’s early data suggests that he was struggling with his basic math computation. The data signified that Leonel needed additional support in math instruction in order to learn some basic addition computational skills and the teacher was able to quickly adapt to address this need. Currently, Leonel seems to be showing an upward trend indicating that the modification to his instruction is helping Leonel to make some progress, however, he is still not making expected gains in accordance with the CCSS and the data shows that further adjustments need to be made in order to help Leonel reach appropriate math goals. Assessing frequently based off the curriculum is the only assured way a teacher can make informed decisions about the instruction of their students. As Leonel is a sweet and respectful student who is performing similarly to his peers, if the teacher were only relying on CCSS to inform their instruction, Leonel’s ability to perform would continue to fall behind. Whereas the CCSS allows a teacher to view an outcome for their students, the CBM allows the teacher to plot the student’s progress toward that goal and allows for adjustments to be made along the way. Leonel is only one example of how CBM is preferable to teaching to CCSS alone. When Leonel’s case is examined closely it is easy to determine what can be done to help support him. Based on Leonel’s current level of performance and the data that has been gathered, teaching strategies can be easily developed to assist Leonel reach his academic goals. For example, once Leonel’s teacher gathered and analyzed this data, she was able to quickly construct an intervention using the Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) method that is research based and proven to work well in ECE and for students with disabilities (Gersten & Chard, 1999). The CRA strategy is a method of teaching students so that they can use representative models to better understand more abstract concepts. Since Leonel seems to struggle with his basic computational skills this may indicate that he is having a hard time understanding how to perform these tasks and CRA can give him a better understanding of this which will allow him to perform better on his computational math tasks. To better support Leonel, his teacher would begin with concrete lessons that would have him using base ten blocks to help him add, then he would build on this knowledge to move into representational methods of adding using pictures and finally he would be able to complete his addition using only the abstract numbers. This explicit instruction which builds on his background knowledge and uses scaffolding to support his understanding will allow him to achieve success in his addition skills. Math that is taught sequentially increases the likelihood for success and retention of this skill which in turn increases the student’s overall math performance. Focusing on developing the skill rather than mastering the standard will allow for greater success throughout Leonel’s academic career and is the best practice for all our students. If we can adjust this simply for one student, the same can be said for all. Just as CBMs helped identify Leonel’s area of need these measures can help us target all of our students’ needs and provide more effective instruction. In their article, Curriculum-Based Measurement for Beginning Writers (K-2) Dombek and Al Otaiba (2016) also articulate how effective CBMs can be in the classroom, they state, This type of progress monitoring tool can provide educators working within a response to intervention (RTI) framework the tools to adequately assess and monitor students’ writing skills, and adjust instruction accordingly. While Leonel was not using CBMs to assess and adjust his writing, it is also clear to see how these measures will help him make progress in his math. I would also contend that due to the fact the standards are so intense, most of our students will need intervention to make progress toward them. Therefore, CBMs can be an effective tool for all our learners and should be used to help inform instruction for all students. Statement of PositionIt is apparent to me, both through the research I have conducted and through experience in my own classroom, that Common Core State Standards are not appropriate in Early Childhood Education. Teaching toward these standards is causing undo stress on our students and expecting them to achieve at levels they are not necessarily developmentally ready for. CBMs are effective ways of examining our students as the NAEYC encourages all educators to do and they are effective at allowing us to use that information to quickly target areas of need and address them. While we must do this in relation to the standard, it is more important that we are developing our Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) and helping students set attainable goals rather than expecting them to achieve to the level of the standards. Through the example of Leonel and his performance in school it is easy to see how detrimental CCSS standards can be to students, when they are not supported in reaching their learning goals through the use of other supplementary materials. Examining Leonel’s case is especially important because, though he was struggling, he was also doing well in most other areas in class and had performance not so different from his peers. If his teacher did not use CBMs as part of her regular practice to support her students, Leonel could have faced additional hardship and this is a reality we must address in all our students. CCSS is creating learning gaps because the standards are so demanding yet so infrequently monitored. Teachers should use CBMs in accordance with their classroom curriculum to develop teaching strategies to meet the needs of their students. Common Core State Standards should be addressed, but need to be secondary to the learning goals that the teacher sets based on student performance and the age and grade level appropriateness. The goals should be student centered and focus on overall achievement while also keeping the skill level and the individual needs of the student in mind.Using CBMs regularly and plotting the data will help the teacher to determine not only the current level of performance of the student and where they want them to be performing, but will also help them analyze what is effective for the student and what changes need to be made along the way to support the student. CCSS only sets an end goal for our students and these goals are often not in the best interest of the development of our students. It is up to the teacher to implement more appropriate strategies that correlate with the standard and the individualized goal of the students and assess these strategies for their effectiveness. Determining the best strategies to use in the classroom is not always easy and will often change from class to class and student to student. What is important to remember is when we are selecting these strategies, we pull from research-based methods that support our DAP for our students. Though many strategies may work, teachers should consider some universally recognized methods that have been proven to be effective in early childhood. Dialogic reading, for example, is a shared reading between the teacher and student that encourages the teacher to question the student to lead them into discussions about the book in order to extend their understanding (Bredekamp, 2014). This is one example of a research-based strategy that is more developmentally appropriate for early childhood. This strategy allows the teacher to develop reading skills with the student without overwhelming them. It would be easily implemented in the classroom and students’ responses can even be tracked to maintain consistent assessment and adjust instruction when necessary. As an educator, I also realize it is important to address the whole child and not just the academic aspect of the child’s growth. We must remember that in Early Childhood Education, we are molding and teaching children in various ways, not just in terms of their academics. CCSS does not always consider the child outside of the classroom setting. Therefore, we need to set standards in our classrooms that address these varying needs of children. For example, we must consider how we support students in learning how to communicate effectively with us and with each other, in learning how to cooperate with one another, in learning how to be a part of a community and socialize appropriately with peers and in many other ways. When we teach only to the intensity of the CCSS, we often forget the whole child and focus solely on the expected outcomes in certain academic areas. However, in these early childhood years it is incredibly important to support the social growth of our children as well and to remember them as not only students but as citizens in our community. As we push our students to achieve more academically, we often forget how important it is for them to just be children. According to Anderson-McNamee and Bailey (2010) play is essential to child development, they state, Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature and most importantly, to have fun. Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family and the world. Play is the basis and structure our students need to be able to perform in school and as educators we need to provide time for our students to play and incorporate this into our classrooms. The NAEYC Code of Conduct outlines principles that we are to follow as educators in Early Childhood. In this code, Principle P.1-2 states, We shall care for and educate children in positive emotional and social environments that are cognitively stimulating and that support each child’s culture, language, ethnicity and family structure. (naeyc.org, 2011). While Common Core State Standards encourage environments that are cognitively stimulating, they lack to consider the other components we as educators understand are important to the development of the whole child. It is then our duty and responsibility to reconcile these differences and create an environment that not only address academic challenges but provides opportunities for students to grow positively in social and emotional aspects as well. This has placed the teacher in an almost impossible situation trying to figure out how to balance the demands of the CCSS and the necessity of supporting the whole child. Another one of the NAEYC principles, P-4.5 states, We shall be knowledgeable about the appropriate use of assessment strategies and instruments and interpret results accurately to families. (naeyc.org, 2011) In order to stand up to this principle, we have to understand the shortcomings that are present within the CCSS. We have to make families aware that the current level of assessment that is being used is based on these high-level standards that our students are not yet developmentally capable of meeting. In addition to this, we must implement supplementary assessment. We know we have to adapt our curriculum and make changes to our instruction to support our students so we must also recognize that this means we need to have assessment that aligns with the adaptations we are making. When we have these measures that more accurately depict the performance of our students we can more clearly articulate with parents and families how their children are performing in school, how we are able to meet their needs and supply information about what they can do at home to help support their children as well. The NAEYC seems to have an understanding that current standards do not always align to what we know to be best practices for our students. These principles show that the NAEYC understands the importance of teaching the child to help support their development in all areas as well as using accurate assessment to ensure that we are really supporting our students to the best of our abilities. Recommendation