The effects of Curriculum-Based Measurement on EFL learners' achievements in grammar and reading


University of Isfahan, Iran


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of using Curriculum-Based Measurement
(CBM) on the learners’ achievement in L2 grammar and reading in an EFL context and to
further  investigate  whether  the  students’  classroom  performances  would  predict  their  final
exam  results.  To  conduct  this  study,  two  classes,  each  containing  30  female  students,  were
selected  among  the  existing  1
  grade  high  school  classes  in  a  high  school.  Prior  to  the
treatment, all participants were given both reading and grammar tests so as to make sure of any
initial differences among them. CBM was randomly implemented in one of these classes (as an
experimental  group)  once  a  week  over  a  12-week  period  to  monitor  their  progress  in  reading
and  grammar.  At  the  end  of  the  treatment,  all  participants  took  the  achievement  test.  The
results of two independent-samples t-tests indicated that CBM significantly improved students’
L2  reading  and  grammar  achievement  during  the  term.  Also,  the  results  of  two  linear
correlations revealed that CBM outcomes during a semester significantly predicted final exam


Main Subjects

Traditionally,  assessment  is  defined  as  an
information-gathering  activity. We assess in
order to gain insights into learners’ level of
knowledge  or  ability  and  the  information
gained  through  assessment  procedures
would  be  welcomed,  and  viewed  as  an
integral  component  of  good  teaching.
However,  a  number  of  questions  are  in
order:  Is  this  uni-dimensional  view  of
assessment  deemed  sufficient  for  tapping
precise  information  regarding  the  student’s
language  ability?  Or  do  we  need  to  apply
some  alternative  procedures  in  order  to

provide  multiple  sources  of  information  for
showing  a  complete  picture  of  students’
progress  and  ability?  This  latter  question
was  also  the  concern  of  researchers  such  as
Gipps  (1994)  and  McNamara  and  Deane
(1995).    Although  Such  questions  have
roughly  been  investigated,  it  is  hoped  to
shed  further  light  on  them  in  this  study.
More  specifically,  this  study  was  to  probe
into  the  effect  of  curriculum-based
measurement  (henceforth  CBM)  on  Iranian
EFL  learners’ development of L2 grammar
and reading.
Curriculum-Based  Measurement  (CBM),  as
an  objective  system  of  ongoing
measurement, is used by classroom teachers
to  fulfill  two  purposes,  i.e.,  to  assess  the
students’ outcome behaviors and to increase
educational  decision-making.  It  is  objective
because it uses explicit rules and procedures,
and  it  is  ongoing  because  it  frequently
occurs  after  a  while  in  the  classroom.
Curriculum-based  measurement  procedures
were  developed  to  index  the  effects  of
instruction  on  student  performance  within
the  curriculum  (Christ,  2006).  CBM  was
primarily  developed  for  the  purpose  of
monitoring  students’  performance  in
curriculum  (Deon,  Fuchs,  Marston,  &  Shin,
2001; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1993). This formative
function  of  curriculum-based  assessment  is
thus  under-explored  especially  in  the  EFL
context,  and  the  present  study  is  an  attempt
in this direction.
Theoretical background
Formative assessment in L2
The  last  decade  has  witnessed  a  significant
shift in thinking about the role of assessment
in  language  learning  programs  (Brindley,
2007).  At  the  forefront  of  this  change  has
been  the  increased  experimentation  with
learner-centered  ‘alternative’  assessment
methods.  From  among  different  possible
alternatives  has  emerged  formative
assessment,  which,  as  its  central  premise,
sees  the  goal  of  assessment  as  an  index  to
learning processes (Leung, 2004; Hagstorm,
2006;  Ke,  2006).  In  many  second  and
foreign  language  instruction  contexts,
assessment  practices  have  increasingly
moved  away  from  objective  mastery  testing
of instructional syllabus content to on-going
assessment  of  the  effort  and  contribution
learners  make  to  the  process  of
learning(Ross, 2005). Teachers should build
in  many  opportunities  to  assess  how  the
students  are  learning  and  then  use  this
information  to  make  beneficial  changes  in
According  to  Bachman  (1990),  formative
assessment  is  intended  to  provide  feedback
for  the  ongoing  teaching  by  providing
important  information  regarding  learners’
strengths  and  weaknesses  that  can  then  be
used  for  subsequent  instructional  decisions.
Teachers are now more aware of the various
roles that they can adopt to aid their pupils’
learning in a more proactive way than in the
past,  and  so  are  more  focused  on  pupils’
learning  as  opposed  to  their  own  teaching.
That  is,  the  focus  is  more  on  the  changes
taking place in pupils’ minds as opposed to
the  effectiveness  of  the  teacher’s
performance  (Harris,  2007).  According  to
Murphy  (2006),  learning  processes  can  be
improved  if  formative  assessment
procedures are applied appropriately.  
Formative  or  “for-learning”  perspective  is
quite different from the summative and “of-learning” perspective in terms of theoretical
and  educational  orientation.  By  definition:
summative  assessment  is  more  quantitative
in nature than formative assessment because
it is formally used to assign grades or marks
so as to make judgments regarding students’
achievement  at  the  end  of  a  particular  term

or  an  educational  program.  But  formative
assessment is process-based, and is used for
assessing students’ learning in the classroom
usually for the purpose of keeping records of
their  progress  overtime  (Harlan  &  James,
1997; Ke, 2006; Harris, 2007).  
Formative  Assessment  has  a  considerable
body of research validating its effectiveness.
As  recent  contributions  to  the  literature  on
second  language  assessment  would  suggest,
conventional  summative  testing  of  language
learning  outcomes  is  gradually  integrating
formative  modes  of  assessing  language
learning as an on-going process.
However, in spite of all the research that has
been  done  on  this  issue,  there  is  a  need  to
expand  empirically  -and  theoretically-
informed  approaches  to  the  investigation  of
how  formative  assessment  is  accomplished
in  the  classroom  (Leung  &  Mohan,  2004).
Besides, of key interest is whether formative
assessment  manifests  itself  in  observable
changes in how learner achievement evolves
over  time  and  how  putative  changes  in
achievement  spawned  by  innovations  in
assessment  practices  influence  changes  in
language  proficiency.  Therefore,  empirical
research  is  required  on  the  impact  of
formative  assessment  on  actual  learning
success  (Ross,  2005).  It  is  now  time  to  turn
our  attention  to  one  of  these  formative
classroom  systems,  i.e.,  curriculum-based
measurement, which is under scrutiny in this
Curriculum-Based Measurement
There  are  several  types  of  formative
assessment  measures,  including  authentic
assessment,  portfolio  assessment,  and
performance-based  assessment.  One  type  of
formative  assessment  is  Curriculum-Based
Measurement (CBM). Popham (1993) refers
to  it  as  “measurement-driven  instruction”.
This  is  also  called  “curricular-driven
assessment”  (Poehner,  2007),  which  is
described  as  playing  a  mediation  role
between instruction and assessment.  
CBM,  for  the  first  time,  was  developed  by
Deno  (1985),  who  defined  it  as  a  frequent
measurement of students’ curriculum so as
to  examine  the  effect  of  instructional
program  on  the  effectiveness  of  teaching
methods  and  the  improvement  of  learners’
success. CBM is a reliable and valid system
of  measuring  students’  over  time  in  the
classroom.  This  way,  teachers  can  use  the
obtained  information  from  the  ongoing
assessment to monitor learners’ progress in
due  course  and  resolve  “when  and  how”
they can fine-tune instructional objectives to
enhance  teaching  effectiveness  (Fuchs  &
Fuchs, 1993).
Poehner  (2007)  believes  that  in  this
approach  assessment  procedures  are  not
developed  a  priori  and  then  imposed  upon
institutions  and  classroom  teachers  but
instead  emerge  from  a  grounded  analysis  of
instructional  interactions  and  pedagogical
practices as observed in the classroom. This
approach  enables  classroom  teachers  to
assume  a  more  active  role  in  determining
assessment practices. An added advantage of
curricular-driven  assessment  is  that  it  lends
itself  well  to  evaluations  of  program
effectiveness.  In  other  words,  because  the
assessment  is  derived  from  curricular
objectives,  students’  performances  can  be
taken  as  indicators  of  how  well  those
objectives are being met (Poehner, 2007).
As  observed  in  the  literature,  The  critical
feature of CBM is its documented “technical
adequacy”  (Deno,  1985).  This  way
technically  sound  measures  are  significant
parts  of  any  assessment  system  utilized  for
decision  making  function  regarding

students’ test  or  class  performance.  The  use
of  CBM  procedures  for  assessing  ongoing
student  progress  and  for  making
instructional decisions has been investigated
for  validation  (Stecker,  Fuchs,  &  Fuchs,
2005).  Using  collective  information  from
multiple  assessment  procedures  results  in
the  reduction  of  measurement  error  and
permits the teacher to make judgments about
whether  the  student  shows  that  he  is  on  the
right  track  toward  achieving  the  long-term
goal  and  to  make  decisions  correctly
regarding  the  effectiveness  of  any
instructional programs (Stecker et al.  2005).
With  the  help  of  such  indicators  of
performance,  teachers  can  measure  the
relevant  standing  point  of  an  individual  at  a
particular  time  or  can  indicate  the  student’s
progress over time (Deno, 1985).
Three  features  distinguish  CBM  from  most
forms  of  classroom  assessment  (Fuchs  &
Deno,  1991  cited  in  Stecker  et  al.,  2005).
They are:
  First,  CBM  is  standardized.  So  the
behaviors  to  be  measured  and  the
procedures  for  measuring  those
behaviors are specified.  
  Second,  the  CBM  testing  methods
and  the  difficulty  of  the  tests  remain
constant,  with  equivalent  weekly
assessments  spanning  a  full  school
  Third,  each  week’s  test  content
reflects  the  performance  desired  at
the  end  of  the  year,  and  therefore
samples  the  many  dimensions  of  the
year’s curriculum.
Although there is a robust research literature
on  CBM  in  psychology  and  general
education  (Stecker  et  al.,  2005),  the
approach  is  relatively  unknown  in  applied
linguistics.  Indeed,  with  very  few
exceptions,  L2  performance  has  not  been
examined from this perspective. “Beginning
in  the  mid-1970s  through  the  early  1990s,
research  on  CBM  focused  on  students  with
disabilities.  It  examined  whether  use  of
CBM-aided instructional decisions produced
differential  achievement  among  students”
(Stecker  et  al.,  2005;  p.  799).  Many  studies
(such  as  Stecker  &  Fuchs,  2000;  Fewster  &
Mcmillan, 2000; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton,
2004;  Maxwell  &  Delaney,  2004)  reported
the  efficacy  of  CBM  in  improving  the
achievement  of  students  with  learning
disabilities in academic skills.
Studies such as Fuchs and Fuchs (1993) and
Stecker  and  Fuch  (2000)  investigated  the
effect of using CBM on reading, writing and
spelling  achievement  of  the  students  in
primary  schools.  Results  indicated  that
teachers  were  able  to  implement  CBM  with
relatively  large  numbers  of  students  with
fidelity  and  that  their  overall  satisfaction
with  CBM  procedures  was  high  and  CBM
could  significantly  improve  early  literacy
skill achievement of primary students.
An alternative approach to traditional tests is
the  collection  of  ongoing  data  through
multiple,  brief  assessments  that  allow  for
consideration  of  the  student's  response
instructional approach based on both level of
performance and growth over time (Francis,
2005).  Curriculum-based  measurement
(CBM)  has  demonstrated  to  be  a  potential
method  for  assessing  both  level  and  growth
of student performance in skill achievement.
The study done by De Ramirez and Shapiro
(2006) was among the first studies that used
CBM  in  L2  language  context.  Using  CBM
procedures  they  examined  the  performances
of  eighty-three  Learners.  The  investigation
was  guided  by  the  following  questions:  Did
students  in  the  English  general  education

curriculum  have  significantly  higher  levels
of  reading  English  than  did  Spanish-speaking  ELLs  in  the  bilingual  education
curriculum?  The  findings  obtained  from
their  experimental  study  revealed  that
Spanish-speaking  learners  of  English  read
English passages more  fluently than  general
education  students.  Moreover,  results
regarding  the  comparison  of  general
education  students  reading  in  English  and
Spanish-speaking  ELLs  reading  in  Spanish
showed  that  general  education  students
outperformed  Spanish-speaking  ELLs  in
term  of  fluency.  From  their  findings  it  can
be  concluded  that  CBM  proved  to  be
workable concerning reading fluency in EFL
As  it  has  been  said,  despite  the  extensive
body  of  research  literature  on  CBM  in
general  education  and  psychology,  it  is
relatively  unknown  in  applied  linguistics.
Therefore,  this  study  was  an  initial  attempt
to  represent  an  in-depth  treatment  of  CBM
and  applications  of  its  principles  to  L2
context. In other words, the study attempted
to  examine  the  instructional  role  of  CBM
both  as  a  technique  which  helps  EFL
students  learn  better  and  as  a  predictor  of
their end-of-the term performances.
The present study
The  major  purpose  of  this  study  was  to
investigate  how  the  results  of  a  CBM
procedure  used  during  the  educational
semester  would  predict  the  performance  of
students  at  end-of  -the-semester  summative
evaluation.    It  was  further  an  attempt  to
investigate  the  effect  of  a  CBM  procedure
on the grammar and reading achievement of
Iranian high school learners, illustrating how
this  type  of  assessment  could  be
accomplished  in  the  classroom  context.  To
this  end,  this  study  was  conducted  to
demonstrate  the  formative  value  of  CBM  in
assisting  students  to  foster  their  English
grammar and reading ability.  
Considering  the  aforementioned  problems
and purposes, the following null hypotheses
were  set  forth  to  be  investigated  in  this
1)  There  is  no  significant  difference
between reading achievement of students
who receive CBM with those who do not
receive  any  especial  kinds  of
measurement during the course.
2)  There  is  no  significant  difference
between  English  grammar  achievement
of students who receive CBM with those
who do not receive any especial kinds of
measurement during the course
3)  There  is  no  relationship  between  the
results  obtained  based  on  CBM
regarding  reading  during  a  semester  and
the  student’s  end-of-the-semester
4)  There  is  no  relationship  between  the
results  obtained  based  on  CBM
regarding  grammar  during  a  semester
and  the  student’s  end-of-the-semester
Two  classes,  each  containing  30  female
students,  were  selected  from  among  the
three  existing  1st
  grade  classes  of  a  high
school in a rural area. Regarding educational
background,  they  were  nearly  the  same.
Indeed,  due  to  the  difficulty  of  conducting
research  in  a  classroom  context  in  our  high
schools,  it  was  difficult  to  randomly  select
and  divide  the  participants  into  groups  as  it
is in a true experimental design, so an intact-
group design was taken to conduct the study.
All  the  participants  had  three  years  of
experience  in  English  language  learning  in
grades  one,  two,  and  three  of  secondary
Before  starting  the  treatment,  a  pretest  was
used  to  assure  the  equality  of  the
participants  in  terms  of  reading  and
grammar  proficiency.  The  results  of  two
independent-samples  t-tests  indicated  that
there  was  no  significant  difference  between
the  learners’  reading  and  grammar
performances  on  pretest  and  two  groups
were  equivalent  in  terms  of  reading  and
grammar  achievement  before  starting  the
treatment  (Tables  1  and  2;  Tables  appear
after ‘references’).
Table  1:  Independent-Samples  t-test  of
Reading Pretest
Table  2:  Independent-Samples  t-test  of
Reading Pretest
As  to  the  purpose  of  the  present  study,  a
number  of  instruments  were  prepared  and
used which will be described in order.
The achievement test  
An achievement test was used as a pretest in
this  study  so  as  to  control  the  initial
differences  among  the  groups  in  terms  of
reading  and  grammar  achievement.  This
achievement  test  was  developed  by  the
researcher.  It  includes  two  reading  and
grammar subtests, 10 items per each subtest.
The  items  of  the  grammar  part  are
completely  related  to  the  English  language
structures  of  grade  one  book  (modals  such
as "could"," had to"," must", and "should”,
expletive  "It",  comparison  with  "as+
adjective+ as structure" and comparative and
superlative  forms  of  adjectives),  which  was
taught and assessed through CBM during the
The  text  of  the  reading  comprehension
subtest  is  also  at  the  same  length  of  the  last
reading  text  of  the  grade  one  book  (150
words) as it is considered to be the students’
reading  goal  in  the  semester.  Reading
comprehension subtest is an equivalent form
of  the  other  reading  comprehension  tests
administered during the semester.
In order to assure the reliability and validity
of  the  test,  a  pilot  study  was  conducted.  In
this  phase  of  study,  the  test  was
administered to 20 grade one students in the
same  school.  The  reliability  measures
obtained using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient
was  .79  for  the  reading  subtest  and  .84  for
the  grammar  subtest.  Prior  to  piloting,
attempts were also made to make sure of the
content  validity  of  the  test.  That  is,  the  test
was  sent  out  for  two  university  professors,
who  were  competent  in  English  so  as  to
render  their  value  judgments  on  its  content
and format. The results of their evaluation of
the  test  confirmed  the  close  correspondence
between  the  content  of  the  test  and  the
content of the materials to be tested. So, the
test was deemed appropriate as to its content
Curriculum-Based  measurement  (CBM)
This study used CBM as one of the methods
of  formative  assessment  which  is
characterized  with  the  features  of
standardized  testing.  CBM  uses  the  typical
paper-and-pencil tests in a formative way to
monitor  students’  gradual  progress.  An
explanation  of  the  tests  is  provided  as

Reading tests
In  this  study,  twelve  teacher-made  ten-item
multiple-choice  equivalent  reading
comprehension  tests  were  used  in  order  to
measure  student's  reading  achievement
during  the  treatment.  These  tests  were
informal  tests  designed  for  the  purpose  of
implementation  of  CBM.  All  passages  used
in  the  reading  comprehension  tests  were
about  150  words  long,  comprising  a
complete story, taken from different sources
and  for  which  equivalence  was  determined
using  the  Flesch  readability  estimate.  These
passages were at the same level of difficulty
with the reading text of the achievement test.
The  readability  indices  of  all  the  selected
texts  fell  between  70-79  which  means  the
texts  were  fairly  easy.  The  topic  of  the
passages was relevant to topics used in the1st
grade book. Each test included 10 items and
students had 10 minutes to complete the test.
Grammar tests
Twelve  teacher-made  grammar  tests  were
used in order to measure student’s grammar
improvement  during  the  treatment.  All  the
tests  included  10  multiple-choice  items.
Every  week,  the  students’  achievement  of
one of the structures of 1
 grade book that is
targeted  in  the  study  was  evaluated  through
one of the tests. Each test included 10 items
and students had 10 minutes to complete the
The  procedure  employed  in  this  study  was
as  follows:  the  first  stage  was  the
administration of pretest (as noted above) to
ensure  the  equality  of  participants  in  terms
of reading and grammar proficiency prior to
the treatment and further to ensure that none
of  the  selected  structures  have  been
previously  known.  After  the  participants
took the pretest, they started the educational
semester,  which  lasted  12  weeks  consisting
of  2  sessions  per  week,  one  session  90  and
the other 45 minutes.  
Having  administered  the  pretest,  the
instructor  started  to  employ  CBM  with  the
experimental group in order to record pupils'
progress in reading and  grammar during the
course  from  the  first  week.  Every  week,
students took a test, including two  grammar
and  reading  sub-tests,  which  lasted  20
minutes.  Students'  progress  was  measured
by  a  quiz  including  both  reading  and
grammar  subtests  every  week,  at  least  four
times  each  month,  twelve  times  a  semester.
Every  week,  the  gradual  improvement  of
each  student  over  time  on  reading  and
grammar  was  shown  on  two  different
graphs.  These  two  graphs  also  represent  the
overall improvement of the class on reading
and  grammar.  They  are  a  kind  of  Linear
Regression  Graphs  and  are  comprehensive
indicator  of  the  students’  reading  and
grammar  achievement  (see  Figure  1  &  2
below).  In  these  graphs,  a  steep  line  shows
that  the  students’  reading  and  grammar
achievement  is  improving  and  a  flat  line
identify inadequate students.
In  the  courses  in  which  the  students’
performances  are  being  assessed  by  the
methods  of  formative  assessment
progressively,  it  is  incumbent  upon  the
teacher to react to the students’ weaknesses
to  compensate  for  their  inadequacy  during
the  semester  (Leung  &  Mohan,  2004).  In
CBM,  this  can  be  done  by  taking  different
actions  such  as  changing  instruction,
lowering  the  goals  of  learning,  and
providing  interventions.  To  fulfill  such  an
objective, this study used weekly sessions of
interventions.  It  means  that  every  week,  the
mean score and the standard deviation of the
class were calculated and the students whose
scores  were  1  standard  deviation  below  the
mean were identified as weak students. This

empirical  evidence  potentially  informs
decisions  about  which  students  require  a
level  of  intervention  that  exceeds  what  is
ordinarily  provided  within  the  education.
Weak Students entered a group tutoring as a
kind of intervention.
It  should  be  noted  that  during  the  semester,
the  control  group  took  just  a  midterm  exam
which  was  administered  in  the  midweek  of
the  semester.  Formative  assessment  as  done
in  the  CBM  group  was  not  implemented
there.  Moreover,  the  effect  of  teaching  on
the participants’ achievement was controlled
by  using  the  same  teacher  and  the  same
teaching  method  for  both  control  and
experimental groups.
At  the  end  of  the  term,  once  again  the  test
which was used as pretest was administered
as a posttest to find the probable changes in
the reading and grammar achievement of the
individual learners.
Tutoring sessions
Good  formative  assessment  will  support
good  judgments  by  teachers  about  student
progress and levels of attainment and it will
provide  feedback  that  can  be  used  to  help
learning.  In  the  present  study,  tutoring
sessions  were  held  to  help  the  students
improve their weaknesses in the problematic
areas.  These  40-minute  sessions  are  based
on the principles of the usual instruction and
they  have  a  clear  scope  and  sequence  of
lessons  that  had  followed  a  weekly  test  and
provide  cumulative  review  and  practice.
Weak  students  were  tutored  once  a  week,
two days after the weekly  tests.    In order to
further  clarify  what  went  on  during  the
tutoring,  a  sample  session  is  provided  here
in  detail.  The  session  was  held  on  the  first
week. The grammar point of the test was the
modal “could” as a past tense of “can’ and 4
students  were  participated  in  this  tutoring
session.  This  session  was  recorded  and  it
was transcribed later by the researcher.
At  first,  teacher  was  going  to  present  a
complete  and  comprehensive  explanation  of
the form and meaning of the modal ‘could”.
To  do  so,  she  wrote  these  examples  on  the
  My father couldn’t swim last Friday.
  Jack  couldn’t  ride  the  bicycle  three
weeks ago.
  Mary  couldn’t  speak  English  last  year.
But she can speak English now
  She  spoke  with  a  very  low  voice,  but  I
could understand what she said.   
-Teacher:  look  at  these  sentences.
What  does  it  mean?  Which  tense
does it refer to?
- [silence]
-  Teacher:  ok,  what  do  you  think
about  the  second  sentence?  What
time does it happen?
- Z (student): present
-Teacher:  why?  How  about  three
weeks ago? Don’t you think…
-F  (student):  past,  past  I  think.  Ago
refers to the past time.
-Teacher:  right.  Let’s  look  at  the
third  sentence.  What  is  your  idea
about the third sentence M (student)?
-  [at  first,  M  translated  the  sentence
into  the  Persian  language]  I  think
“now” refers to the present time but
last year….
- [F interrupted] past time again.
-  Teacher:  so,  you  think  “could”  is
used for the past tense F, yes?
-F: yes.
-teacher: and what does it mean?
- F: “be able to”
-Teacher:  good,  exactly.  S  (student),
would  you  give  us  an  example  of
what you couldn’t do in the past?

-S: [thinking] yes, I couldn’t played
the guitar.
-Teacher:  what’s  wrong  with  the
sentence students?
- [silence]
-Teacher:  “couldn’t  play”  or
“couldn’t play”?
F: I think “couldn’t play”?
-Teacher: why?
- [silence]
-Teacher:  ok,  because,  as  you  know,
we  use  bare  infinitive  after  Modals,
- Students: yes.
Then, teacher gave the students some
completion  exercises.  They  were
supposed  to  complete  the  sentences
using “could”, “couldn’t”, or “can”.
An example is provided here:
EX:  my  grandfather  was  a  very
clever man. He …………speak five
Having done the exercises, the students were
asked  to  discuss  the  answers.  At  the  end  of
the  session,  the  teacher  assigned  some
homework exercises for the students.
Weekly analysis of subjects’ performance
In Tables 3 and 4 below, weekly analysis of
the participants’ performance on reading and
grammar  exams  is  shown.  In  these  Tables,
class  statistics  are  provided  which
potentially  inform  decisions  about  which
students  require  a  level  of  intervention  that
exceeds  what  is  ordinarily  provided  within
general education. As it is mentioned earlier,
these  students  should  enter  a  one-session
group tutoring. The mean CBM score for the
class  is  shown,  along  with  the  standard
deviation  on  that  mean  and  a  discrepancy
CBM score (average score minus 1 standard
deviation)  for  signaling  an  inadequate
performance level relative to classmates.
Table 3:  Weekly analysis of participants’
performances on the reading exams
Table  4:  Weekly  analysis of participants’
performances on the grammar exams
As  it  can  be  seen  in  the  Tables  above,  the
number of the students who are supposed to
take part in tutoring is decreasing toward the
end of the semester.
The results of CBM tests are also shown on
Linear Regression Graphs. They indicate all
students’ reading and grammar improvement
one by one during the educational semester.
Graphs  1  and  2  below  are  two  examples  of
students’  performance  on  reading  and
grammar  tests  during  the  educational

The effect of CBM on students’ achievement
in reading and grammar
The  first  and  the  second  null  hypotheses
were intended to investigate the CBM effect
on  the  achievement  of  reading  and  some
English  structures  of  Iranian  high  school
students.  In  order  to  investigate  these  two
hypotheses,  after  the  treatment,  the  posttest
was administered to both groups to compare
the  subjects’  performances.  Table  5  shows
descriptive  statistics  of  the  posttest  in  both
Table  5:  Descriptive  statistics  of  the

Two  independent-  samples  t-tests  were  run
to  compare  control  and  experimental
groups’  performances.  The  results  showed
that there is a significant difference between
the  performances  of  the  control  and
experimental  groups  on  the  reading  and
grammar  posttest  (Table  6  and  7).
Considering  descriptive  statistics  and  mean
scores,  it  can  be  inferred  that  the
experimental  group  performed  better  than
the control group on the posttest. Therefore,
it  can  be  concluded  that  CBM  can
significantly  improve  the  learners’
achievement  and  the  first  and  the  second
null hypotheses were rejected.
Table  6:  Independent-sample  t-test  of  the
reading posttest
Table 7: Independent-samples t-test of the
grammar posttest
The  relationship  between  students'
classroom  performances  and  their  final-exam results
The third and fourth hypotheses of the study
were  that  there  is  no  relationship  between
the  results  obtained  based  on  CBM
regarding  reading  and  grammar  during  a
semester  and  the  students'  end-of-the-semester performances.
To  investigate  these  hypotheses,  two  linear
correlations  were  run  to  explore  how  well
the  mean  scores  of  students’  performances
during  the  semester  can  predict  their  final
exam result. (See Tables 8 and 9).
Table  8:  Linear  regression  analysis  of
reading CBM and the final exams results
Table  9:  Linear  regression  analysis  of
grammar  CBM  and  the  final  exams
As  can  be  inferred  from  the  above  Tables,
there  is  a  strong  positive  relationship
between  the  students’  performances  during
the semester and at the end of the term both
in  reading[r=.825,  n=30]  and
grammar[r=.856,  n=30].  Furthermore,  the
obtained  significant  levels,  for  both  reading
and  grammar  results,  are  lower  than

significant  level  of  .05  and  as  a  result,
reading  and  grammar  test  results  during  the
semester can significantly predict final exam
results.  Therefore,  it  can  be  concluded  that
the  performances  of  students  who  were
assessed  by  CBM  during  the  semester  can
be a significant predictor of their final exam
results  and  the  third  and  fourth  null
hypotheses were rejected.  
The  present  study  was  an  effort  to  apply
CBM  in  foreign  language  learning  context.
As  it  was  pointed  out  in  the  Background
section,  much  research  has  been  done  on
CBM in special education, general education
and psychology area, but in second language
context, it is relatively unknown. Therefore,
although all the components of the treatment
and  data  analysis  were  completely  based  on
the CBM research and theory in special and
general education, this study was among the
first  studies  which  brought  the  CBM  in  to
the  second  language  assessment  classroom
As a consequence of the analysis of the test
results  during  the  term,  and  comparing  the
results  of  the  pretest  and  posttest  in  the
experimental  group,  it  was  concluded  that
CBM  can  be  an  effective  method  for
improving  the  grammar  and  reading
achievement  of  the  learners.  The
effectiveness  of  CBM  is  enhanced  if  the
learners’  performances  are  monitored  step-by-step  using  graphs  and  if  the  students’
inadequacies  are  compensated  using
interventions. CBM caused a gradual growth
in  the  students’  performances.  This  result
can be in line with the conclusion which has
been made in an overview of CBM research
by  Stecker  et  al.  (2005).  They  concluded
that  teachers  can  expect  significant  growth
with  CBM  progress  monitoring  if  they
simultaneously  implement  modifications  or
interventions  when  warranted  by  student
data; however, frequent progress monitoring
alone  did  not  appear  to  boost  student
After  the  treatment,  two  independent-samples  t-tests  were  run  to  compare  the
performance  of  the  experimental  and  the
control  group.  The  results  indicated  a
significant  difference  between  the  two
groups  on  the  posttest.  CBM  apparently
caused  experimental  group  to  improve  in
comparison  with  the  control  group.  This
finding  is  in  line  with  many  studies  which
used CBM in general education (e.g., Fuchs
&  Fuchs,  1993;  Stecker  &  Fuchs,  2000;
Fuchs,  Fuchs,  &  Compton,  2004;  and
Maxwell & Delaney, 2004). De Ramírez and
Shapiro  (2006)  also  confirmed  the
effectiveness  of  CBM  for  bilingual  children
and  for  learning  second  language  in
bilingual schools.  
The findings in this regard also lend support
to  Murphy’s  (2006)  argument  that  the
learning  process  can  be  improved  if
formative assessment is conducted properly.
In  sum,  this  study  demonstrated  the
formative potential of CBM to help students
foster  their  English  grammar  and  reading
ability  in  the  classroom.  Interestingly,  this
formative function of CBM as an assessment
procedure  underscores  the  agreed  upon
statement  that,  such  formative  assessment
data  can  help  teachers  identify  areas  of
strength  or  weakness  of  the  students  and
help  them  make  informed  decisions  for
future  teaching  and  learning  process  (Weir,
2001; Ellis, 2003).  
The third and fourth hypotheses of the study
dealt  with  the  investigation  of  the  relation
between the formative assessment during the
semester  and  summative  assessment  at  the

end  of  the  semester.  The  results  of  the
correlation  between  the  test  scores  during
the term and on the final exam revealed that
the results of CBM, as one of the methods of
formative  assessment,  can  predict
summative  results.  To  the  best  of  our
knowledge,  there  are  not  any  studies  that
have  investigated  this  issue  in  second
language learning domain to date.  Yet there
is  a  study  that  investigated  the  relation
between  formative  and  summative
assessment in undergraduates in oral surgery
(Anziani,  Durham,  and  Moore,  2008).  In
that study, no correlation was found between
the  overall  grades  for  the  formative  and
summative assessment.  The obtained  results
of  that  study  seemingly  contradicted  the
present  study.    Maybe,  this  contradiction  is
due  to  many  factors  such  as  using  different
methods  of  formative  assessment,  different
educational  settings,  very  different
participants,  and  the  like.  In  conclusion,
because  of  the  controversy  observed  in  the
data, this issue needs to be investigated more
in different settings in the future.
The  findings  obtained  also  underscore  the
washback  effects  of  CBM  in  the  sense  that
this  way  of  formative  assessment  would
drive  teaching  and  hence  learning.  It  is  also
referred  to  as  ‘measurement-driven
instruction  ‘by  Popham  (1993).  The
measurement-driven  instruction  is
achievable  by  encouraging  the  match
between  the  content  and  forms  of  the  tests
and the content and forms of the curriculum.
This is referred to as ‘curriculum alignment’
by  Sheppard  (1993).  In  this  study,  the
implementation  of  curriculum-based
measurement  during  the  experiment  could
roughly  help  the  instructor  to  match  the
content  and  forms  of  the  assessment
procedures  with  those  of  the  curriculum  in
the  high  school.  Also,  the  results  of  the
experiment  reported  above  confirm  that  the
match  between  assessment  procedures  and
the  content  of  the  instruction  practiced  in
this  study  is  beneficial  to  the  subjects  and
hence furthers their learning.  
To this end, The findings obtained from the
implementation  of  CBM  as  a  formative
assessment  procedure  can  be  significantly
explained  in  the  light  of  the  conclusion
made  by  Ke  (2006),  that  “Such  formative
testing  allows  our  teachers  to  tailor  their
teaching  energies  toward  continuing
instruction  and  toward  providing  timely
feedback  for  developmental  purposes”  (p.
216).  It  can  thus  be  concluded  that  more
empirical  evidence  is  needed  for  future
research  to  cast  light  on  the  relationship
between  the  components  of  the  curriculum
such  as  the  course  objectives,  program
goals,  and  the  washback  that  practitioners
and teachers obtain.
As noted above, two findings were obtained
as  a  result  of  data  analysis  in  this  study.
First,  the  implementation  of  CBM  in  EFL
context  was  shown  to  be  useful,  that  is,  the
subjects  in  the  experimental  group  were
more  successful  in  improving  their  L2
grammar  and  reading  as  compared  with
those  in  the  control  group.  Second,  the
assessment  of  the  subjects’  class
performances positively predicted their final
scores  on  the  achievement  test.  Thus,  based
on the findings obtained in the present study,
the  following  concluding  remarks  are  worth
mentioning  as  to  the  application  of  CBM  in
EFL classrooms:
•  Monitoring  through  using
CBM  in  the  classroom
allows  for  the  systematic
collection  of  comparative
data  to  determine  the
significance  or  effect  of
instruction  and  intervention

on  individual  learners  or
groups of learners.
•  CBM  helps  second  language
teachers  to  have  a  step-by-step  account  of  their
students’ progress during a
semester. It can aid teachers
to  judge  students’  ability,
growth,  and  efforts  during
the  term,  and  help  them
before their final exam.  
•  CBM  typically  uses  materials
from  the  student’s
curriculum  and  is
administered  in  a
standardized  format  so  that
a  given  student’s
performance  is  comparable
from  one  assessment  to
another.  The  'motion
picture' that develops as the
results  of  several
assessments  are  plotted  on
a  graph,  reflects  the
student's progress.
•  CBM  results,  as  one  of  the
methods  of  formative
assessment,  can  yield
consequences  that  can
significantly  predict  the
course outcome.  
Therefore,  formative  assessment  can  be  a
significant  predictor  of  summative
Moreover,  a  number  of  implications  can  be
drawn  from  the  results  of  this  experimental
study  that  may  possibly  be  useful  for  both
practitioners  and  teachers  in  EFL  contexts.
First  and  foremost,  CBM  can  help  teachers
to  find  out  how  students  are  progressing  in
basic  skills  such  as  reading,  grammar,  and
spelling  since  in  CBM,  each  learner  has  a
chance  to  be  assessed  and  graded  several
times during the term. Second, the results of
the study can be also very helpful for stake-holders,  such  as  students,  teachers,
administrators, parents and education board;
in  this  way,  CBM  can  help  them
communicate  with  each  other  more
constructively.  Teachers  also  can  use  the
CBM  graph  in  conferences  with  their
colleagues  and  administrators,  as  it  gives
them  specific  information  about  the
students’  progress  and  the  success  of  the
instructional  methods  being  used.  Finally,
CBM,  as  an  overlooked  assessment  system
but  efficient  method  of  formative
assessment  can  possibly  open  new  horizons
in  the  domain  of  second  language  testing
and  assessment.  Language  testing
researchers  can  investigate  different  aspects
of  this  reliable  and  pragmatic  means  of
measurement  in  assessing  second  language
However,  due  to  the  nature  of  experimental
research  in  classroom  context,  a  number  of
caveats  may  still  limit  the  findings  obtained
in this study. First, since data were collected
from  a  small  size  population,  care  must  be
exercised in generalizing the findings of the
study  to  larger  populations.  With  more
participants,  the  results  of  the  study  would
be  more  reliable  and  the  obtained  data
would  be  more  generalizable.  Finally,  If
random  assignment  of  the  participants  to
different groups were done in this study, the
obtained  findings  would  be,  for  sure,  more
dependable  and  generalizable  than  they  are


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