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Ask A REL Response

February 2017


What research has been conducted on vertical articulation across grades and school levels?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on vertical articulation. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of vertical articulation across grades and school levels in different content areas. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Buckendahl, C. W., Huynh, H., Siskind, T., & Saunders, J. (2005). A case study of vertically moderated standard setting for a state science assessment program. Applied Measurement in Education, 18, 83-98.
    From the abstract: "Under the adequate yearly progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001), states are currently faced with the challenge of demonstrating continuous improvement in student performance in reading and mathematics. Beginning in 2007 to 2008, science will be required as a component of the NCLB Act. This article describes South Carolina's elementary science assessments and its approach to setting achievement levels on those tests. A description of how the state developed a system of vertically moderated standards across the range of grades covered by the tests is provided. Included in the process are standard-setting activities, Technical Advisory Committee deliberations, State Department of Education final decisions, and data provided to the state's Board of Education for information purposes. Recommendations for practice are also provided."
  2. Cizek, G. J. (2005). Adapting testing technology to serve accountability aims: The case of vertically moderated standard setting. Applied Measurement in Education, 18, 1-9.
    From the acstract: "This article introduces the focus and contents of a special issue of Applied Measurement in Education devoted to vertically moderated standard setting (VMSS). The article begins by presenting some history related to the nexus of policy initiatives and psychometric capabilities. The policy context that necessitated the development of VMSS is described; the challenges of setting standards across grades and subject areas are explored; and a definition of VMSS is provided. Finally, brief descriptions of the contents of this special issue are provided along with appropriate acknowledgments."
  3. Kannan, P. (2016). Vertical articulation of cut scores across the grades: Current practices and methodological implications in the light of the next generation of K-12 Assessments. ETS Research Report Series, 1-22.
    From the abstract: "Federal accountability requirements after the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 and the need to report progress for various disaggregated subgroups of students meant that the methods used to set and articulate performance standards across the grades must be revisited. Several solutions that involve either "a priori" deliberations or "post-hoc" adjustments have been offered over the years. In this paper, I provide a methodological review of the alternative cut-score articulation methods, including some novel solutions (e.g., using predictive methods) that have been proposed in the context of the next-generation K-12 assessments. In systematically evaluating these methods, I focus on the psychometric challenges they might present and the practical feasibility of their operational implementation. In addition, results from a survey of several state departments of education help to provide information on the prevalence of these methods across the states. Overall, this review shows that none of the alternative methods is completely free of limitation; yet, each method provides solutions that are appropriate for addressing certain methodological and practical requirements.Therefore, in the context of the next-generation assessments and the need to identify students who are on track to being college and career ready, practitioners are advised to consider a combination of methods and cautioned against overreliance on any single method."
  4. Ostler, E., & Flesch, M. (2012). Using dynamic solution exercises to achieve vertical course alignment. MathAMATYC Educator, 3(3), 10-16.
    From the abstract: "This paper justifies the need for, and offers some suggestions on, the selection and implementation of mathematical problems known as dynamic solution exercises (DSEs). The intent of this article is to help provide insight into how mathematics teachers can go about making "vertical articulation" a cooperative and tangible part of the mathematics curriculum. A sample dynamic solution exercise is provided based on research at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. Some strategies for selecting and building a DSE instructional environment are included."
  5. Suh, J., & Seshaiyer, P. (2015). Examining teachers' understanding of the mathematical learning progression through vertical articulation during lesson study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 18(3), 207-229.
    From the abstract: "This study examines elementary- and middle-grade teachers' understanding of the mathematical learning progression as they participated in a 6-month professional learning project. Teachers participated in a professional development project that consisted of a 1-week summer content-focused institute with school-based follow-up Lesson Study cycles in the fall that focused on the vertical articulation of algebraic concepts across grade levels. The following research examines how a vertical team of teachers from multiple grades designed, taught and learned from the Lesson Study cycle. The video analysis from the research lessons and the teachers' reflections revealed teachers' developing vertical connections and representational fluency from their planning, teaching, observation and debriefs. In addition, Lesson Study afforded teachers opportunities to deepen their understanding of the mathematical learning progression through observation and analysis of students' thinking through a situated school-based professional development experience."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Vertical articulation
  • Vertical alignment
  • Vertical scale

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2001 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.