IEP Data Collection

A few weeks ago, Michelle wrote a post about IEP Progress Monitoring. In that post, she references “collecting data” several times. And, in our Facebook group, you will often hear one of us ask a parent, “What does your data say?

IEP data collection is one of the most difficult concepts that I hear about from parents. Most parents know in their gut that there is an IEP issue, but don’t have the data to prove their concerns.

How to Easily Get Meaningful IEP Data

And, everyone tells you “you need to have the data!” but no one ever tells you how to get that data or what it should look like. Until now. In this post, I’m going to discuss:

  • Why IEP data is necessary.
  • What is good, solid IEP data, and what does it look like?
  • Who should collect the data for an IEP?
  • When and how should IEP data be given to parents?

Why Meaningful IEP Data is Necessary.

In a nutshell, you need meaningful data to know if the child is making progress toward their goals. Data is collected to monitor IEP progress, but also taken to tell us when progress isn’t happening. Timely data tells us if a student is struggling so changes can be made if necessary. And, data collection serves as a source of reinforcement for teachers and therapists. It should tell them when a student is progressing. It also serves to tell the IEP team that the IEP supports and services are being implemented and are appropriate for this child.

Often times, IEP team members are not great at data collection. This is due to several reasons. One is that there is not a solid collection method in place. The second is lack of confidence–they fear that the data collected will show a lack of progress and they’ll receive blame. This can mean that there is a faulty collection process in place. Because a solid data collection sheet doesn’t just detail the results. It also lists what was done.

Try flipping that mindset for them. Good data gives them credit for all of their hard work teaching! It shows that they are implementing an instructional program outlined in the IEP. In our data-driven society and teacher accountability, that can be really helpful for them.

Criteria for Solid IEP Data Collection.

If you remember, when talking about how to write IEP goals, I shared the SMART acronym. It’s a common acronym used to describe goals.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Apparent (goals uses Attainable)
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

If you think about it, you can use that same acronym for IEP data collection. The one change I would make it changing the A to apparent. Apparent meaningeasy to perceive, understand, or interpret.

Does your IEP Data pass the stranger test?

Just like your IEP itself, the data collected about your child’s progress should pass the stranger test. Any stranger (new teacher, new school, etc.) should be able to pick up that piece of IEP data and it should read like a mini excerpt from IEP Present Levels. For that specific area or goal, the person should be able to discern exactly what progress the child has made since as compared to the last baseline. It should also tell them specifically what interventions were used and what accommodations were made.

  1. Make sure your Present Levels section is solid. It should have specific baselines.
  2. Re-read IEP goals. They should align with Present Levels and the baselines. If not, adjust. Meet or do no-meet addendum to adjust IEP goals.
  3. Brainstorm the easiest, quickest method to gather the needed data. Buy or create a sheet for doing this. See the orange button below for a zillion examples!
  4. Assign it to a person. Teacher, therapist, para, aide.
  5. As per dates in IEP, collect and interpret. Paras and assistants can also do this. It may not be appropriate for them to interpret, but they can certainly count up and do the math and percentages.

If at any point, these 5 steps don’t make sense, then there’s an issue with the IEP. You either don’t have baselines listed or the goals are not measurable or relevant.

What does IEP data look like?

What should your data look like? How can the team help teachers and paras collect SMART IEP data without adding a huge burden on their school days? How do you know if you have the data that the team needs? What do you do with the data once it’s been taken? How much data is enough? How can you use the data for more than just documenting progress?

IEP Data Collection will be specific to the child. And, you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. Sure, it often includes a lot of checklists. It just has to meet the SMART criteria.

My son’s school just uses the IEP writing software for progress monitoring reports. They keep a checklist in the classroom and just check for each day what happened during this transition.

iep data collection sheet

As you can see, this meets the criteria.

  • Specific-this is very specific, I know exactly when he did or didn’t transition well to the van, and what they used to engage or get him to cooperate.
  • Measurable-numbers, dates.
  • Apparent-It’s quite apparent what his results are, very easy to understand.
  • Relevant-the IEP goal and objectives that this measures up with are on the exact same page.
  • Timebound-done daily, reported quarterly, per his IEP.

Don’t Shy Away from IEP Data Collection.

It is essential for IEP teams to have a data collection plan in place. Yes, it requires planning and some extra work ‘up front.’ However, once you have a decent system in place, it is very easy to replicate for other students. All it takes is changing the goals and data collection points per the child’s IEP.

IEP Data Collection can feel like an overwhelming task to undertake. There’s also this perception out there that teachers (or paras) have to be collecting data, all day, every day, every movement the child makes. This just is not true.

Without a solid collection method in place, IEP teams likely will lack the data they need to make decisions in the future. It’s also probably not going to be really reliable or accurate.

It’s also important to note that data collection takes a very long time. Or, the data itself doesn’t take a long time to collect but gathering up enough data to determine trends and progress takes a long time.

I just had lunch with a Mom yesterday and we discussed this. Her child’s 0-3 team was phenomenal at collecting data. First, they collected data on how much speech progress he was making when it was 1:1. Then they collected data on 1:2, small group and so on. As his instructional group got larger, his progress trended downward. Sure, that might seem obvious. But, per her child’s IFSP team, she had conclusive, objective data to demonstrate that her child could really only learn speech skills in a 1:1 or 1:2 environment. Beyond that, he was too distracted.

iep fail first

Sure, she got interventions in place but it took many months to gather that data. This can be a gray area–gathering the data you need vs. “fail first” which our kids are not required to do per IDEA. It’s a fine line, and why I often say that writing a solid IEP is part science, part art.

Who should collect IEP data?

If your child spends time with a para or aide, it is perfectly acceptable for them to collect data. Their data should tell you how the students are doing during the time spent with them. It should also include what supports and strategies were being implemented at that time. This also takes some of the burdens off of teachers. Again, does your data collection process pass the stranger test? If a new para comes in, can he/she pick up that clipboard and know exactly what to do?

Your IEP Related Services team members should be collecting their data. Though, again, it wouldn’t necessarily be inappropriate to have a para or TSS sit in on the session and collect data while instruction is going on.

IEP Data Collection Sheets

Again, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Teachers Pay Teachers has an extensive list of IEP data collection sheets for you to purchase. Most are $2-$5 and it’s a little extra income going into a teacher’s pocket.

IEP Goals are individualized. And so are teachers’ organizational styles and teaching styles. Data collection is going to look different in different classrooms with different staff. But it’s important that we implement the plan in a systematic way. Again-SMART.

What to do with IEP data.

I’ve been in a lot of classrooms where I see a ton of checklists…..and then the data collection process falls flat. Collecting raw data is only half of the process.

When should parents receive IEP data?

Progress monitoring should be clearly defined in your IEP. It should list when parents can expect to receive these reports, and what they will be or look like. Red Flag Alert: Too often, I see something written in IEPs, something like “Progress Reports given to parents with report cards.” Or something like that, I don’t have one in front of me. But basically saying that yeah, you’ll get your 3 report cards this year and that’s it. No! Grades and IEP Goals are two different beasts.

Of course, we want to see our kids’ report cards. But we also need to see their progress toward their IEP goals, which is not and should not be measured by grades only.

IEP Data Collection Success

A few final thoughts–

Without SMART data, we have no idea if our IEP is appropriate or being followed. Initially, it can seem like an overwhelming process to set up and put in place. Again, work with your team to get the data you need with as minimal a burden to classroom management as possible. You can have both.

One issue that comes up frequently with our kids and IEP data collection. Yes, some kids (like mine) have a lot of checklists that need to be near their person all day, every day. However, I am very much against a child carrying around a clipboard or other Scarlet Letter that otherwise defines him and advertises him as a child with a disability. It’s ostracizing and discriminatory and must stop.

Discretion is key, and yes, you can be both discreet and efficient. Teachers and therapists are some of the most creative people you will ever meet. Brainstorm to find another way to do this.

And, this post is about formal data collection toward IEP goals. However, IEP “data” can be anything. If you are seeing items of concern with your child, document and save things. By things, I mean email, homework assignments, notes on papers from teachers, etc.

It may not be a formal collection method, but it can show trends with your child that warrant further evaluations or supports.

Good luck! This part of the IEP process is connected to a lot of other moving parts in the IEP process. Here’s more for you to read.