When the system was developed, the different possible assessment types were carefully considered. The assessments with the strongest possible technical adequacy for use as universal screeners and progress monitoring assessments for use in an RTI / Multi-Tiered Systems of Support approach to improving student learning were used.
Nonsense words were considered as a possible measure, but ultimately were not included for two reasons.
- Dr. Tindal, one of two lead developers of the easyCBM system, who was one of the first to work on CBMs back in his graduate school days at the University of Minnesota, thought it paramount that we consider the ways in which assessments can drive instruction. In his many years researching school and district implementation of CBMs, he had often observed a practice contrary to good instruction. Namely, he observed teachers drilling students on nonsense words. All too often, folks seemed to misunderstand that although a nonsense word assessment can provide relevant information about students’ gaps in phonics, this does not mean that one should focus students’ instruction on nonsense words. In fact, for the most at-risk students, it is even more essential that instructional time focus on high impact words.
- The research on CBMs and screeners/progress monitoring assessments suggests that although nonsense words can add some information to the assessment battery, its inclusion did not actually increase the predictive validity of the other measures of reading that are included on the easyCBM system: Letter Names, Letter Sounds, Phoneme Segmenting, and Word and Passage Fluency for the youngest students and Passage Reading Fluency, Vocabulary, and Reading Comprehension for the older students.
Our goal with easyCBM is to provide useful and technically adequate assessments that will help guide instructional decision making, not only for identifying students at risk, but also for monitoring the progress those students make as they are provided with targeted instruction specifically designed to address their needs. The measures included have a strong empirical foundation and mimic the type of skills students are expected to be working on as they are taught using Evidence Based Practice. We do, however, acknowledge that educators may find a measure of nonsense word fluency useful in further diagnosing particular gaps in individual students’ phonological processing.