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How to Turn IEP Progress Monitoring into Success for your Child.

a mom reads her child's iep progress monitoring spreadsheet
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IEP Progress Monitoring

Definition of individualized education program (IEP)… an IEP will include…

(3) A description of—
(i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and
(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided;

https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/d/300.320

Parents spend a lot of time advocating for appropriate IEP goals for their kids to meet their individual needs. But one area of the IEP process that often gets lost in the shuffle is IEP Progress Monitoring.

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What is IEP progress monitoring? Why is progress monitoring toward IEP goals needed? Who is responsible for each IEP goal? How do you progress monitor IEP goals? Are their any IEP progress monitoring tools? I find that most parents look at the goals and know in their gut that their child isn’t making progress. But they are not sure of what to do about IEP progress monitoring. This article is going to dig into the IEP progress monitoring pieces.

IDEA states that each child’s IEP must contain:

(3) A description of—

(i) How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and

(ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided…[§300.320(a)(3)]

IDEA Requires Progress Monitoring for IEPs

IDEA requires that every IEP include a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals. IEP goals should address the needs that result from the child’s disability, and enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. As well as meet the child’s other needs that result from the disability.

IDEA states that every IEP will contain:

  • a description of how the child’s progress toward the annual goals will be measured.
  • when periodic progress reports will be provided.

Where do IEP goals come from? The process of writing IEP goals starts from the evaluations of a child’s identified needs, but it doesn’t end there. An evaluation may identify a specific skill area of need, such as behavior, social skills, reading, math and so on.

IEP Present Levels are your Baseline for Progress Monitoring

IDEA also requires a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. IEP Present Levels should show how the disability affects the child’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum.

This focuses on the Present Levels of the IEP. Often called a PLAAFP, PLOP, PLEP or just Present Levels, this is where the IEP begins. And it should be specific. The Present Levels is a summary describing the child’s current achievement and performance in the skill areas affected by the disability as determined by the comprehensive evaluation. The strengths and weaknesses need to be pinpointed as to what the child is able to or unable to perform in the general education curriculum.

IEP Progress Monitoring has to be more than just test scores. Copying a test core from an evaluation, such as a standard score of 76 on Written Expression will not tell you anything about what that child’s strengths and weaknesses are. Nor will it tell you how the specific skill area is impacting a child’s ability in the general education curriculum. Achievement evaluations are also not going to be able to be repeated at regular intervals for monitoring.

Present Levels are where goals come from, and are the foundation for the IEP. IEP Present Levels can include:

  • skill based assessments
  • benchmark tests
  • classroom performance checklists
  • work samples
  • records review
  • teacher reports
  • Curriculum Based Measurements (CBMs)
  • informal checklists
  • rubrics
  • parent input
  • observations  

Curriculum Based Measurements CBM

CBMs are a scientifically validated form of student progress monitoring. CBMs are used throughout a period of time by probes at frequent intervals.

Goals should be written from the baseline data from the Present Levels. So as not to make this post longer than it should be, if you have more questions about either topic below, please read the links below and then come back to this post.

SMART goals for IEP
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Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Limited.

Progress Monitoring IEP Goals

So what is IEP Progress Monitoring? IEP Progress Monitoring is frequent repeated measurement of performance in a specific area. Progress monitoring is provided to the parent to help them understand how the child is progressing. But progress monitoring should also be used by the IEP team to make ongoing decisions about any changes or revisions necessary to the child’s IEP.

Focusing on how that goal will be measured is critical in actually understanding, trusting and seeing progress. The IEP decisions are based on data, so having objective data that tells the team how a child is progressing is a step that cannot be skipped.

How do you Collect Data for IEP Progress Monitoring?

For every goal, you want to ask the IEP team:

  • How will progress be measured? Is this data objective?
  • Who will measure the progress?
  • What will be reported to parents?
  • How often or when will progress be measured?

The same IEP progress monitoring process should be used for the length of the goal.

  • Can this assessment or procedure be repeated at specific intervals? 
  • Was this data just from an observation?
  • Was a checklist or rubric used to take the subjective nature out of the process? 

An IEP should pass a stranger test and that includes IEP goals. So if a child moves or a new teacher takes over a class, will that teacher be able to measure the progress in the same way? 

Is there a CBM that can measure this progress objectively? Will work samples, checklists, rubrics, assessment data  be shared with parents?

Gather Data then Refer Back to the Baselines.

Looking back at the baseline data used to write the goal is also important in making sure the goal is appropriate to target a specific need. I just saw a goal the other day that targeted decoding by measuring comprehension. You cannot compare an apple to an orange. The specific need being targeted is also the same need that should be measured.

IEP teams may find it easier to address this component of the IEP by framing the discussion around specific questions. For example, the IEP team might ask itself these three questions:

  • How will the child’s progress be measured?
  • When will the child’s progress be measured?
  • How well will the child need to perform in order to achieve his or her stated IEP goals (or benchmarks or objectives)?

The information on how well a child must perform and how his or her progress will be measured is often called evaluation criteria. Well-written evaluation criteria are stated in objective, measurable terms. It should be objective data. For example, reading X number of sight words on a cold read. And not, “his reading skills have improved.

The data should reflect concrete numbers or scores rather than opinions. And, it should be apples to apples data for the entire IEP team to compare to the baselines in Present Levels. 

How Often Should you Monitor IEP Progress?

Another progress monitoring piece to look at is the frequency of the progress reporting. Many schools use quarterly or with report cards. The parent can advocate for more frequent progress monitoring, especially in critical areas. If the school has reported significant behavior or learning disability needs, it may not be appropriate to wait 9 weeks to know if the child is making progress.

If parents don’t address progress monitoring during the IEP meeting while the IEP is being developed, they likely will be very disappointed when progress reports are issued. Because the reports will lack the progress monitoring that includes actual data to know how the child is progressing. Having a goal state observation, teacher made tests, or a generic statement like “ data collection” is not specific.

IDEA is not definitive about the timing of progress monitoring. And yes, as an advocate, I have seen IEPs that contain wording that only holds schools accountable for reporting progress (or lack thereof) to parents once a year. 

This is another issue or detail that IDEA leaves up to the states, so double check yours before approving a final IEP.

Red Flags in Monitoring IEP Goals and Progress

  • Opinions and subjective data are often not accurate. Observations, without checklists or rubrics, are often not accurate. 
  • Grades are not objective assessments of progress since many factors can influence grades.
  • IEP Goals written to generalized grade level standards. Of course we want to close the gaps for our kids, so IEP goals should be written with grade standards in mind. However, be careful of non-specific goals that state things such as “Johnny will write at 4th grade level standards.” You want a goal to explain what the 4th grade standard is, so the expected action is clear to everyone.
  • Another red flag to look for is that goals aren’t measurable to begin with. Guessing a mood, feeling or attitude cannot be measurable. 
  • Vague goals are also not going to target specific needs and are also often not measurable.
  • Another red flag is not having baseline data. You must know where the child currently is in their performance or achievement to be realistic about where you want them to end up.
  • Also be aware of skipping steps. While parents may want to advocate for specific services, the special education services have a direct relationship with the needs in the Present Levels and goals.

So coming full circle, measuring a child’s progress to goals begins in the present levels. If a child’s Present Levels are incomplete or inaccurate, the IEP cannot have meaningful, measurable goals. And without decent goals, you will not have appropriate supports and services or decent IEP progress monitoring.

The above post on IEP Progress Monitoring is from one of our Facebook group admins–Michelle Tilly. Thanks so much Michelle!

Below I (Lisa) am going to add the spreadsheet that we have to share.

IEP Progress Monitoring Spreadsheet

Here on the blog, we have an IEP Goal Tracking Worksheet. It is a form of Progress Monitoring, but may not be as detailed as what some parents are looking for.

iep goal tracking spreadsheet
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This is what the IEP Goal Tracking Spreadsheet/Form looks like.

IEP Goal Tracking Spreadsheet


a mom reads her child's iep progress monitoring spreadsheet
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And this might help....

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