Why Specific IEP Progress Monitoring is So Important
Heather Hulse, JD, MS, MA
McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires school districts to monitor progress on the goals in the Individual Education Programs (“IEPs”) for students with special education needs. Progress monitoring is the scientifically-based practice of specifically measuring progress regarding a specific area of need. Unfortunately, many school districts are not appropriately monitoring progress on students’ IEP goals. Without appropriate progress monitoring, there is no way of knowing whether a student is making progress, and whether revisions to the student’s special education programming are necessary.
It is first essential to have measurable IEP goals with baselines upon which progress is monitored. This means that IEP goals need to include what is actually being measured (e.g. reading comprehension or attention to task), how it is being measured (e.g. performance on standardized assessments in reading comprehension or minutes attending before distracted), and where the student is functioning upon initial implementation of the goal (e.g. standard score of 78 on reading comprehension standardized assessment or 6 minutes attention to task before distracted).
The method by which progress is monitored is extremely important in insuring that accurate and appropriate progress monitoring is occurring. More specifically, the methods for measuring progress must include objective measures of the specific goal. Simply utilizing subjective measures, such as teacher observations, therapist observations, or even grades (which can be highly subjective), is not sufficient to measure progress on IEP goals. Moreover, specific information must be provided regarding the methods being used to measure progress. For example, simply stating “data collection” is insufficient. Rather, the specific means by which data will be collected should be provided, such as who will be collecting the data, how the data will be collected, how often the data will be collected, and under what circumstances the data will be collected.
Parents should also be provided with reports of progress as frequently as necessary, rather than subject to the convenience of the school district. Quarterly progress monitoring is almost universally implemented in IEPs across Pennsylvania. However, more frequent report of progress monitoring is appropriate in many situations. For example, a student with significant behavioral needs may requite weekly or even daily report of progress to parents. Additionally, it would not be appropriate to wait an entire quarter of the school year to report progress to a parent of a student who is functioning three years below grade level due to their Specific Learning Disability.
Parents need to carefully review their child’s IEP goals, including a review of how their child’s progress is being measured and how and when they will be provided with reports of their child’s progress. If a parent does not understand or has any concerns with the level at which their child is currently functioning, what is being measured, how it is being measured, and when they will be provided with reports of their child’s progress, the parent should immediately seek to clarify such matter, preferably in writing.