The Who, What, When, Where & Why of Progress Monitoring

When I first started teaching, I wasn't very comfortable with progress monitoring. I didn't know where to start, what materials to use, or how to collect and store data. This obviously led to a lot of pitfalls in my teaching abilities. Creating groups was difficult, writing report cards took an insane amount of time, my IEP reports were vague, and much more. I quickly realized that if I wanted to use data to drive instruction, I had to begin collecting it from day one. Since then, I have worked tirelessly to perfect my progress monitoring tools and assessments. I have seen a tremendous increase in my students learning, the more I perfected my data collection process. It is directly connected to students success. So here are some of the things I have learned during my progress monitoring journey.

Progress monitoring is a term used to describe assessing students in a way that allows you to track their growth in specific areas. By progress monitoring, an educator can see specific areas of growth and areas of need for individual students and/or whole group.

Progress monitoring should be the number one component of your teaching. Below are some of the ways progress monitoring will help you as an educator.
  • Understanding Student Abilities: By collecting data on each student you can get an understanding of their academic abilities. It will help you track trends for students. For example, student A may have a strength in math but struggles with phonics skills. Or student B is great with memorizing skills but struggles to apply them out of isolation.
  • Tracking Progress with Grade Level Skills: Backwards planning is important when thinking about progress monitoring. Ask yourself: Where do you want your students to be at the end of the year? What skills should they have been exposed to and have mastered? After you have fleshed out these responses, find assessments that target these skills. From the beginning of the year, test students on this, even if you haven't taught it yet. This will help you track progress. You will be able to see which students have mastered specific skills and can move on, and which students need targeted instruction for certain skills. I use this baseline bundle to help me track a full years worth of growth all in one spot. It is perfect because as a special education pull out teacher, I service students in grades k-2.

A guide to progress monitoring for general and special education teachers to help with reading, math and RTI success

  • Data Driven Instruction: After all of your assessments have been completed, take a closer look at the results. Look at them on an individual level and on a whole group  level. Use this data to drive further instruction. Specific things to look for include:
    • Which skills are the class as a whole struggling with?
    • Which skills have the class as a whole mastered?
    • Which skills should you focus on next?
    • Which skills need some more time and can be spiraled into centers or word work stations?
    • Which students are ahead and need to be challenged?
    • Which students are struggling with basic skills and need small group intervention?
    • Which students are not making growth?
    • Which students should be flagged for RTI?
    • How can you use this information to differentiate lessons, homework and future class assignments?
A guide to progress monitoring for general and special education teachers to help with reading, math and RTI success

  • Creating Small Groups: Do you have small groups during the day? Think about what you are targeting in these groups and then use the data collected to appropriately place students. For example, during center time I work with a small group to focus specifically on phonics. These groups are determined by looking at my data, and I also use the data to determine which skills to practice with them.
  • Flagging Students for RTI: If you are testing students on the same skills and notice that they are making little to small progress, you must begin intervention with them. Similarly, students who are falling behind in meeting classroom expectations should be flagged for intervention.
  • Flagging Students for Evaluations: Have you provided RTI within the classroom and still see little to no growth? Continue to collect data on these students and reach out to other professionals within your building about next steps. This student could qualify for pull-out services, and if these next steps are not successful, starting the evaluation process may be beneficial to them.
  • Writing Report Cards: Writing report card comments can be a challenging task, but it is our responsibility to be clear, specific and helpful in our comments to parents. If you are progress monitoring throughout each marking period, you can simply refer to this data in your comments. Telling parents that their child knows "most of their sight words" isn't a useful comment. However, telling them that their child knows "70 out of 100 sight words" helps parents have a better understanding of their students academic standing. 
A guide to progress monitoring for general and special education teachers to help with reading, math and RTI success

  • Writing IEP Reports: If you are responsible for writing IEP reports, or providing your special education teacher with information on a child, having concrete data and numbers is very important. We are our students advocates so we must be knowledgeable on their growth and their struggles.  By referring to your data, you can easily paint a very clear picture of your student.
  • Holding Conferences: Parent Teacher Conferences can be an uncomfortable situation, especially if you aren't prepared. Collecting data and having evidence of growth and areas that are challenging, will make the task easier. 
A guide to progress monitoring for general and special education teachers to help with reading, math and RTI success

Progress monitoring should happen from week 1. You want to utilize every day of the school year to help students grow. In order to do that, you have to have a sense of where they are and where they need to be. Though the use of different assessments, you should be collecting data consistently throughout each marking period. Additionally, if you are using a baseline assessment throughout the year to monitor growth in specific skills (the same assessment multiple times), then you should conduct that at the start of the year, and at the end of each marking period. This will allow you to see just how far they've come each marking period. 

If you service students then you should be progress monitoring. Whether you are a general education teacher, special ed teacher, resource room teacher, etc. Anyone who is responsible for helping students grow should be tracking their growth and using the data throughout the year.

This is tricky, especially if you are a general education teacher with a class of over 20 students. Ideally, you want to provide your students with a quiet, test taking environment when progress monitoring. If you are doing a whole group assessment then this is easy. However, if it is a one on one assessment, choose times of the day that are the best for this. Make sure the rest of the class is doing independent work. Establish guidelines about what the other students should do if they have a question or a need, in order to avoid interruptions. If you are blessed and have a Teacher Assistant in your room, utilize them to help the rest of the students while you work one on one with a child. Remember, you want to set your students up for success, and a quiet classroom will do that for them.

I hope you find this post useful and I hope it gives you confidence to start the progress monitoring journey!

Make sure to pin this image so you can refer back to it throughout the year:

A guide to progress monitoring for general and special education teachers to help with reading, math and RTI success

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