Dr. Brian Bottge, principal investigator (PI), along with co-PIs at the University of Kentucky (Dr. Xin Ma) and the University of Georgia (Drs. Allan Cohen, Laine Bradshaw and Hye-Jeong Choi), were recently awarded a four-year $1.6 million grant from the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) to develop more sophisticated measurement tools for assessing the conceptual understanding and procedural skills of students with disabilities in math http://edsrc.uky.edu/AIMs/index.html. Bottge is the William T. Bryan Endowed Chair in Special Education and a professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Rehabilitation Counseling.
NCSER is one of four centers within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), which serves as the research arm of the U. S. Department of Education. According to IES, its mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.
Specific activities of the new research are 1) to refine problem-solving assessments in ways that more adequately tap the knowledge and performance of students with disabilities in math; 2) to design fractions computation measures so teachers of students with disability in math can more efficiently conduct their own error analysis; and 3) to develop more sophisticated statistical analysis methods to uncover subtle differences in student performance over the course of instruction.
According to Bottge, “Our plan is to build more useful and practical measurement systems that apply to both the input (i.e., test design) and the output (i.e., analysis) of assessment tools.”
Bottge identified the need for better measurement methods in his previous studies funded by IES Goal 2 (Development and Innovation) and Goal 3 (Efficacy and Replication) http://edsrc.uky.edu/TEAM2/index.html.
“Standardized and criterion-referenced tests showed that our instructional interventions were successful in boosting the math performances of low-achieving adolescents,” Bottge stated. “But we also found that traditional assessment methods fell somewhat short of capturing what students had actually learned and did not provide teachers with important diagnostic information.”
These findings were based on careful analyses of posttest item-level errors, more than 600 classroom observations, and interviews with students and teachers.
Over the next several years, the researchers will conduct a series of quasi-experimental and experimental studies to determine how the new assessment methods compare to how math skills have typically been measured. Bottge hopes to create more productive links between assessment and instruction that will eventually lead to better learner outcomes for all students, especially for students with disabilities in math.