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10 Persistent Progress Monitoring Myths Debunked

October 31st, 2019

Progress monitoring is a widespread practice in K-12 schools across the country and for good reason! By collecting frequent data about a student’s progress toward a specific learning goal, teachers can keep tabs on how well an intervention is working and make changes as needed. However, despite the widespread acceptance and general use of progress monitoring, several myths about the practice still persist.

Below, with accurate information that will hopefully encourage even the biggest skeptic to view progress monitoring in a new light, I’ve debunked the 10 most common myths I hear about progress monitoring.

Myth #1: Progress Monitoring Is Prohibitively Long

Quite the contrary! Progress measures are designed to be brief so that they take up as little time as necessary to provide as much time as possible for intervention.

Most progress assessments take between 1 to 15 minutes. If given once per week, this is a relatively small amount of time in a student’s week. In contrast, the data provide very important information about whether intervention is working.

Myth #2: Progress Monitoring Requires Extensive Additional Testing

It’s not a secret that there are a number of required assessments in schools, so it’s understandable that many may see progress monitoring as just “one more test.” However, it’s important to keep in mind that progress monitoring is only done with a small subset of students—not all students.

Progress monitoring serves as the assessment of an intervention, so only students who participate in supplemental intervention receive additional testing. And don’t forget, these brief tests (see myth #1) have a big impact on helping these students catch up to their peers.

Myth #3: Progress Monitoring Has To Measure The Entire Range of Skills Being Taught

Absolutely not! Progress measures are designed to measure very specific skills that match the focus of the intervention, they do not need to measure every skill. Why? Because not all skills are taught at once.

Effective instruction uses an instructional hierarchy that matches the student’s current instructional stage. In fact, this is the reason why weekly progress assessments are able to be both brief and highly informative.

A careful alignment of the progress measure with the intervention focus means new progress measures can replace old ones once a student improves a particular skill. In doing so, the measure always matches the current instructional stage and skill focus.

Myth #4: Progress Monitoring Is Less Effective for Students in General Education

Historically many of the most widely used progress measures were developed for the purpose of monitoring Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. However, they can be used by any student.

Just as effective instruction works for all students, progress monitoring can benefit any student who is working to catch up to grade level goals. In addition, progress data can also provide important information to determine whether a student has a specific learning disability.

Myth #5: Progress Monitoring Will Just Create More Paperwork

Actually, there’s very little true “paper” work in progress monitoring.

Most publishers who offer progress assessments have an online option for some, if not all, of their assessments. Fully computer-based progress assessments are ones that the student completes using a computer or tablet device. Computer-assisted progress measures include ones where the teacher records a student’s answers directly into a computer or tablet while the student works from a paper form.

A benefit of both computer-based and computer-assisted progress monitoring is that the scores are immediately available for the student and teacher to review.

Myth #6: Classroom Teachers Cannot Do Progress Monitoring

There’s only one rule about who conducts monitoring: the person who’s administering the tests needs to be trained in how to use the progress assessment. In fact, classroom teachers are encouraged to conduct progress monitoring because then they are aware of the student’s progress toward specific learning goals and can adjust instruction accordingly.

Myth #7: Progress Monitoring Data Is Hard to Interpret

The opposite is true: most progress data are very easy to interpret. In most cases, progress monitoring scores are depicted on a graph and this makes it very easy to see if the student is likely to reach the goal. Three major trends are seen in most graphs:

  1. The student is improving and on track
  2. The student is improving and not on track
  3. The student is not improving

Here is an example of a case where the student has improved but is not on track for the goal:

Progress Monitoring Graph

In the above graph, the student’s scores indicate some improvement but not enough to reach the goal. In this case, the teacher could intensify the intervention by adding more minutes or days per week.

Myth #8: Progress Monitoring Should Only Be Administered Once Per Season

This myth is perhaps the most crucial one to debunk. Progress monitoring frequency is a critical detail. The National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRTI) recommends that monitoring happen weekly to monthly. Importantly, monitoring needs to happen at least every four weeks because less frequent data will not be reliable.

It’s helpful to note that progress monitoring is different from screening. Screening assessments are conducted with ALL students, usually three times a year. Screening assessments do provide information about all students’ overall progress in relation to the core curriculum. But screening assessments do not provide details about interventions used with specific students. For this reason, Illuminate recommends weekly progress monitoring of all students who participate in supplemental intervention.

Myth #9: Progress Monitoring Is Not a Standardized Assessment

A standardized assessment is any assessment that uses the exact same administration and scoring procedures with all students who use it. In order for any assessment to provide scores that can be compared over time, it must be standardized. By using the same procedures each time a student completes a progress measure, the results can be compared because they reflect the same testing conditions and content. Therefore, any assessment used for progress monitoring should be standardized. All FAST™ progress measures are standardized assessments.

Myth #10: Kids Don’t Like Progress Monitoring

I’ve heard some teachers argue that kids don’t like completing progress assessments. My own decades-long experience working with thousands of students is the total opposite. I’ve witnessed students enjoying progress assessments and seeing their scores each week.

One of the biggest benefits of progress monitoring is having a regular feedback loop about intervention outcomes. Students who participate in interventions understand this benefit as well. They uniformly enjoy seeing if each score is above or below the prior week. Seeing their own actual progress serves as an additional motivator for working hard to improve their skills.

One veteran middle school teacher shared with me how a struggling student walked into class and said, “Hey, do we get to do that progress monitoring test today? I want to see my gains.” Progress monitoring allows students to see their own improvement and set goals for the future.

Conclusion

I hope readers understand that progress monitoring is not only brief but includes easily interpretable data and empowers students to be invested in—and reach—their goals. If you’re new to progress monitoring, an easy way to begin is to select one student and try out weekly assessments.

Illuminate provides valid and reliable progress monitoring assessments and teacher-friendly reporting to districts nationwide. Reach out today to learn more.

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Illuminate Education partners with K-12 educators to equip them with data to serve the whole child and reach new levels of student performance. Our solution brings together holistic data and collaborative tools and puts them in the hands of educators. Illuminate supports over 17 million students and 5200 districts/schools.

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