Great IEP, Consistent Implementation. Now What? Progress Monitoring.

Last week we talked about the importance of consistent IEP implementation. A strong IEP and consistent implementation are the basis for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). Progress monitoring, while often underappreciated, can be a powerful tool to demonstrate implementation, provide evidence that the IEP is appropriate, and inform the development of the next IEP. Keep reading to see how progress monitoring fits into the IEP process and how teams can do it effectively.

Why is progress monitoring so important?

First, progress monitoring is required by the IDEA. The IEP must include a description of how a student’s progress toward annual goals will be measured and when progress reports will be provided. Because measuring and reporting student progress on IEP goals needs to be specified in the IEP, progress monitoring is technically part of IEP implementation. Additionally, the IDEA provides that, at the annual review meeting, the team needs to determine whether the student’s goals are being achieved and make revisions to the IEP to address any lack of expected progress. This feedback function is critical to ensuring that the IEP is appropriate (but you don’t have to wait until the annual review).

Second, the FAPE standard set by the Supreme Court in Endrew F. is that the IEP should be reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances. How much progress is appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances? The IEP team uses its professional judgment to create annual IEP goals, which answer that very question. So if progress monitoring and reporting show that the student is progressing toward and meeting their IEP goals, you have great evidence that the IEP is providing FAPE. On the other hand, and echoing the feedback function mentioned above, if progress monitoring and reporting show the student is not progressing as expected, you have a clear signal to make a change to instruction or to the IEP through an ARD meeting.

Tips for powerful progress monitoring:

  1. Start with measurable goals and clear present levels. We started here on our implementation post as well. Unambiguous, measurable goals, in combination with present levels that include the baseline for the goal skill, are also the foundation for effective progress monitoring. If the goal is vague or the baseline is not clearly stated, measuring progress is incredibly difficult.
  2. Make a practical plan. As stated above, the IEP needs to include a description of how a student’s progress toward IEP goals will be measured and when progress reports will be provided. So at the ARD committee meeting, think through and discuss how the team will collect data, observations, student work, or other information to measure progress on each goal and who will be responsible for collecting that information.
  3. Implement, summarize, and analyze. Here is the real work. Team members, in addition to providing instruction on the goals, also need to collect information on the student’s performance over time. But collecting the data is not enough; to be most useful, the data needs to be summarized and analyzed. For instance, taking the information from behavior charts, assessments, work samples, or observations and putting it in a format that identifies averages, trends, and outliers so that team members can determine whether the student is progressing and potential variables impacting that progress.
  4. Communicate with parents. IEP progress reports are sent home on a regular basis, which provides parents critical information about their child’s learning and the effectiveness of the IEP. This regular communication provides transparency and empowers parents to more effectively participate in ARD meetings.
  5. Inform instruction and IEP development. Returning to the feedback function highlighted above, progress monitoring and reporting is not simply a final statement of the student’s performance, it is formative. The student’s progress over time informs teacher and service provider decisions about instruction as well as team decisions about needed accommodations, modifications, and services.

Are your teams using progress monitoring and reporting to their full potential? Reach out to our Special Education Team with questions as well as for training and support.