SPECIAL EDUCATION By Theodora Schiro, on 9/21/2020
Why does progress monitoring matter?
School districts need to monitor student progress to assess student outcomes, submit mandated state and federal reports, and in many states, claim Medicaid reimbursements. But progress monitoring can also be used to help identify and support requests for additional staffing needs or pinpoint professional development gaps.
Getting the most benefit from the progress data you collect and report on depends on how you leverage your service tracking system or other systems you have in place to manage it.
Use systematic progress monitoring to improve student outcomes
Accurate and detailed progress monitoring is critical to student success. You need accurate data to:
- Guide instruction
- Make decisions about student growth
- Communicate progress on IEP goals
- Determine effectiveness of providers and programs
Creating standardized procedures for progress monitoring and using consistent tools for progress data collection is much more efficient than allowing all service providers to use their own preferred methods or disparate systems.
Every provider should follow the same steps for each student:
1. Clearly define the concern.
Be sure to use specific language. The target behavior should be alterable, meaning the student’s performance can be changed. Be very specific: Identify when and how long the behavior occurs. Give examples: Is it observable? Can you see it or hear it? How would you measure it?
2. Determine how progress will be measured.
Teachers and service providers have to measure a wide range of student responses. Data might include the duration or length of time a student stays on task or the frequency a specific behavior is observed. To describe the action accurately, use common rubrics or rating scales.
It’s also important to include data on how much assistance was provided to the student by counting and reporting the number of cues given.
3. Decide where you want to start and where you want to end up — the baseline and the goal. Use charts to collect data and track progress.
Establish a baseline, usually the average of at least three data points or comparison with typical performance standards. Then determine precisely what goal a student must meet to determine success. Using a SMART model helps identify a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goal.
- The student will demonstrate correct production of the /l/ phoneme in all positions of words at the sentence level with 75% accuracy independently by 9/30/2020.
- By March 2020 when properly positioned, given light touch physical cues and verbal cues, the student will use a switch (jellybean, etc.) to engage in preferred cause/effect operations to initiate and/or continue activities modeled to her (ex. Switch toys, computer interface switch with computer access), on 4/5 opportunities over 3 consecutive sessions.
Produce true data-driven IEP progress reports
Use a simple chart to track progress. It should include a baseline data point and the goal data point. Connect the baseline point to the goal data point to create an aim line representing the student’s estimated or expected growth rate.
Collect and review data regularly — determine the schedule by identifying the IEP progress reporting periods and annual review dates. Use the data to make decisions on frequency and duration of services.
Are the provider’s strategies working, or do they need to be adjusted? Does the student’s goal need to change prior to the next annual review?
Would providers benefit from professional development in specific areas of concern?
Does the data present a need for additional staff to support student success?
Fiscal and regulatory impact
In many states, a quality progress monitoring system also demonstrates fiscal responsibility as it is necessary for both compliance and Medicaid reimbursement. Systematically implementing progress monitoring can make a significant difference in the revenue a district can collect through Medicaid reimbursements to support ongoing student services.
“Documentation of each individual or group session must include the following information…. Student’s progress toward established goals.” — Medicaid Certified School Match Coverage and Limitations Handbook, Florida
“LEAs must maintain documentation of the student’s response and progress resulting from the claimed service. This documentation must be updated no less than quarterly.” — Handbook for LEAs, Illinois
“The Progress Summary is a written note outlining the child’s progress that must be completed by the provider every three months from the start date of treatment or when medically necessary. The purpose of the Progress Summary is to record the longitudinal nature of the child’s treatment, describe the child’s attendance at therapy sessions, document progress toward treatment goals and objectives, and establish the need for continued participation in treatment.” — LEA Provider Manual, South Carolina
- Services must improve a condition, not just maintain it. To be reimbursable, regular progress monitoring data is required to show that services impact student achievement.
- Sometimes providers have their own way of collecting data to document student progress. If they also use the data for IDEA documentation, state reporting, and Medicaid reimbursement, entering it separately for each function leads to unnecessary duplication of effort and takes time away from students. If providers document services for Medicaid claims in one place and progress monitoring data for IEPs is collected elsewhere, they’re doing the work twice! Wouldn’t it be better if they spent their time servicing students instead of doing more paperwork?
- What if you could collect all the data in one place and use it for compliance reporting, Medicaid reimbursement, and progress monitoring for IEPs? Imagine how that would reduce the workload, increase documentation, and drive up Medicaid revenue.
“The Progress Summary is a written note outlining the child’s progress that must be completed by the provider every three months from the start date of treatment or when medically necessary. The purpose of the Progress Summary is to record the longitudinal nature of the child’s treatment, describe the child’s attendance at therapy sessions, document progress toward treatment goals and objectives, and establish the need for continued participation in treatment.” – LEA Provider Manual, South Carolina
- Progress on IEP goals must be reported at least as often as parents are informed of their non-disabled student’s progress. Is that data easily accessible in your service tracking system?
Are you using the right service tracking system?
Does your service tracking system work for you, or are you working for it? You might be spending more time and effort than you need to. With standardized procedures and a quality tracking system, every provider in your district enters progress monitoring data at the end of each session directly into your service tracking system.
This has several benefits:
- Improved visibility: Reports are automated and every provider’s documentation is captured in the same way. All users can see the reports along the way and make adjustments in services without waiting until the annual review of the IEP.
- Parent engagement: A quality tracking system can even improve parent engagement. Any time a parent requests an update on their child’s services, you’ll have the data at your fingertips and consistent quality of reporting across providers.
- Audit protection: Your IEP service tracking system may also affect your audit results. Ideally, it should give you peace of mind, not keep you up at night worrying that negative findings could affect funding.
But don’t overlook the most important benefit: STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.
Your system should be built not only around compliance with state reporting and IDEA requirements but also best practices that result in improving student achievement. Reports should be able to answer the following questions:
- Which intervention strategies impact student progress the most?
- Which therapy types might need extra support?
- Are the goals short or long term?
- Are the goals the right length?
- Are students meeting goals in the right time frame?
- Are the goals attainable?
- Do goals need to be adjusted to make them more attainable or more challenging?
- Do you have enough data to determine ESY eligibility?
With the right system, you will have all the data you need to make the best decisions for your students and your district. Simplify the documentation, management, and tracking of student services and strengthen compliance with Frontline’s Service Management software. Learn More
Theodora was a teacher and school administrator for over 37 years. After leaving the public education world, she started a new career as a freelance writer. She enjoys writing content that helps businesses and service organizations thrive.