The MLO Minute, By Michael Connolly, Esq., Supervising Partner of the Special Education Department for McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse, Ryan and Marone P.C.
As the end of the first marking period of the 2019-2020 school year is upon us, or at least fast approaching for many schools, it is a good time to keep in mind the importance of robust progress monitoring for students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires public school districts to monitor students’ progress on annual goals and report that progress to parents, at least as frequently as progress is reported to students without disabilities (i.e., in most schools this is done at least quarterly).
The requirement for quarterly progress reporting, however, does not mean that progress monitoring only occurs quarterly — monitoring student progress on IEP goals should be happening far more frequently. Depending upon the individual needs of the student and the specific skill or skills being addressed in the goal, it may be appropriate to monitor progress on a specific goal or goals monthly, weekly, or even daily. Similarly, although reporting on progress is at a minimum required monthly, it should occur more frequently if appropriate given the student and/or the goal. Again, the frequency of progress reporting, like that of progress monitoring, can be as often as monthly, weekly, or even daily, as the circumstances may require. The determination of how frequently progress data on goals is to be collected and/or the frequency of reporting that data to the parents is a decision of the IEP team, and should be discussed regularly at IEP meetings.
It is also important to make sure that the data collected is actually providing meaningful data on the skill addressed in the goal. Too often we see progress data that although it addresses the general skill area covered in the goal, it does not provide any data on the specific skill targeted in the goal, and as result, a determination as to progress on the goal cannot be made. Most importantly, someone on the child’s team – a teacher, case manager, behavior specialist, etc. – should be analyzing the data on a regular basis so that programmatic decision making regarding the student can be made based on the data. Collecting lots of progress data, even if it is great data, is useless if no one is meaningfully analyzing the data and making programmatic recommendation based upon that data. There is no better time than now to discuss with the IEP team and develop a timeline for assessing proper progress monitoring to ensure that the student will improve and move in the right direction throughout the rest of the school year.