Too few people recognize that the research literature convincingly shows that frequent progress monitoring practices using tests like Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) are one of the most powerful interventions teachers have at their disposal. A recent examination of over 800 meta-analyses on variables that impact student achievement by (Hattie, 2009) showed that this type of progress monitoring was number 3 among all those examined, including school, family, teacher, or student characteristics, and instructional strategies. In fact, frequent progress monitoring was number 1 among the instructional variables teachers could control. These strong, positive effects were consistent across age, frequency of progress monitoring, and disability status.
Where do our teachers learn about frequent progress monitoring? It is not routinely part of our teacher training programs. Even in 2015, most of our educator training programs lack sufficient coursework to impact assessment knowledge and skill.
According to the National Center for Teacher Quality, “in too many programs, assessment coursework centers only on the tests that teachers have always administered, preparing teacher candidates to develop and use assessment data to improve their students’ performance in an insular environment."
As important as this type of preparation continues to be, it shortchanges teacher candidates because it does not represent the environment of schools in this century (National Center for Teacher Quality, 2012). Only 24% and 21% of undergraduate and graduate teacher education programs were rated as providing adequate training in Assessment Literacy.
Because our educators don’t come out of their training programs with frequent progress monitoring skills in their toolbox, it puts great pressure on in-service staff development to increase routine school use.
I would argue that if schools are to become great at Multi-Tier Services and Supports (MTSS) or Response to Intervention (RtI), we must get great at understanding and engaging in high quality frequent basic skills progress monitoring practices. Although some individuals understand the importance of progress monitoring, to most educators, this understanding is not deep. All progress monitoring practices are not the same. For example within most conventional implementations of MTSS/RTI, there are implicitly fivefamilies of progress monitoring (Shinn, 2010). All five progress monitoring families answer different assessment questions. They also have four other attributes that can vary depending on the type of progress monitoring. The five families of frequent progress monitoring practices and the corresponding progress monitoring questions are as follows:
Five “Families” of Frequent Progress Monitoring
- Progress toward Special Education IEP Goals: Is the student making progress toward the annual goal stated in the IEP or does the IEP need to be revised in line with changes first put forth in IDEA-97 that the IEP is “to be revised to address any lack of expected progress?”
- Determining RtI as part of Special Education Eligibility: Is the student is responding (i.e., progressing) to appropriately intensive instruction and if not, does the student need special education to improve achievement?
- Progress as a result of Tier 3 intervention: Is the student making progress toward a goal that allows a team to judge whether the student is benefiting from Tier 3 intervention?
- Progress as a result of Tier 2 intervention: Is the student making progress toward a goal that allows a team to judge whether the student is benefiting from Tier 2 intervention?
- Progress as a result of Tier 1 or Core Program Instruction: Is the student making progress toward a goal that allows a team to judge whether the student making adequate yearly progress?
In addition to some differences in the progress monitoring assessment questions, the families need to be examined on four other features:
- Progress Monitoring Material: This material is the level of assessment materials (e.g., grade level or “off level) specified in the student’s goal and in which progress will be monitored. For all progress monitoring families, but IEP goals, the progress monitoring material is typically the student’s grade placement. That is, for a Grade 4 student receiving Tier 3 intervention, the goal and progress monitoring would be in Grade 4.
- Frequency: How often progress will be monitored. Frequency varies by the severity of the problem. Students with IEP goals would be progress monitored once per week. Students in Tier 1 would be progress monitored three times per year, typically K-6.
- Time Frame: How long progress toward the goal will be monitored. Students at Tier 1 would be tested three times per year. This time frame can differ by family. For students with IEP goals, the time frame is typically 1 year from the date of the IEP or the “anniversary date.” For Tiers 1-3, the time frame typically is for the remainder of the school year.
- Criterion for Acceptable Performance (CAP): The method for determining the progress-monitoring goal. Educators may use one of two methods, norm-based (i.e., tied to scores from local norms, national norms, normative rates of improvement (ROI)) or standards-based (tied to score predictive of success on a standards-based state test) to determine the goal. The differences between the two CAP methods will be the subject of a separate entry.