By: Yvette Arañas
As we mentioned in our recent blog post about benchmarking, all students in a school should be screened to identify struggling learners. Students in need of extra instructional support should be monitored regularly to see whether they are making progress towards their goals. While screening identifies unrecognized problems, progress monitoring is meant to measure a student’s growth and determine whether a particular intervention is working.
The Importance of Monitoring Progress
When we monitor students’ progress, we administer measures frequently and repeatedly to estimate students’ growth in a behavior or skill. Progress monitoring is essential for determining students’ needs and evaluating their response to targeted and individualized interventions (Ardoin, Witt, Connell, & Koenig, 2005). It is also useful in informing instruction and helping students move toward the competencies they are expected to attain.
Selecting a Progress Monitoring Measure
Struggling students should receive interventions that target a specific area of need. For instance, a second grader who struggles with decoding would most likely benefit from a phonics intervention; likewise, a student who is slow in adding and subtracting math facts would probably benefit from a math fact fluency intervention. When implementing an intervention that focuses on a specific sub-skill, it is important to select progress monitoring measures that target that particular sub-skill. In the case of the student receiving instruction in decoding, a progress monitoring measure like earlyReading’s Nonsense Words fluency would be appropriate. For the student receiving math fact fluency instruction, CBMmath Automaticity would probably be best. The bottom line is, it is important to understand what exactly a progress monitoring measure is targeting before using it. That way, the data that you gather are specific to the intervention that you are implementing. FastBridge Learning provides flowcharts (one for reading and a few for math) to help users select the correct progress monitoring tool in FAST™ (log in to your FAST account to access these flowcharts).
As with any assessment, we advise users to carefully review their progress monitoring tool to make sure it has strong evidence for reliability and validity. For a review on psychometric evidence, please see our past blog post, Evaluating the Quality of Standardized Assessments.
Frequency and Duration of Monitoring Progress
While screening is typically done three times a school year, progress monitoring is done much more frequently. Research differs in terms of suggesting how frequently and how long we should progress monitor; however, according to Thornblad and Christ (2014), progress monitoring outcomes have more evidence of reliability, validity, and precision when the duration is increased and more data are collected. When it comes to frequency, progress monitoring should occur at least weekly or biweekly (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006). In terms of duration, more than six weeks of progress monitoring was necessary to guide educational decisions (Thornblad and Christ, 2014). Regardless of how frequently and how long you are able to monitor students’ progress, it is important to understand that as much data as possible should be collected to obtain the most accurate estimate of their growth. This is especially crucial for students who are critically low.
Here, we’ve only provided basic information about progress monitoring. Next time, we will be discussing how to use progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions. Stay tuned!
If you'd like to explore the progress monitoring tools available in FAST, request a demo here.
Ardoin, S.P., Witt, J.C., Connell, J.E., & Koenig, J.L. (2005). Application of a three-tiered response-to-intervention model for instructional planning decision making, and the identification of children in need of services. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 23, 362-380.
Fuchs, D. & Fuchs, L.S. (2005). Responsiveness-to-intervention: A blueprint for practitioners, policymakers, and parents. Teaching Exceptional Children, 4, 93-99.
Thornblad, S.C., & Christ, T.J. (2014). Curriculum-based measurement of reading: Is 6 weeks of daily progress monitoring enough? School Psychology Review, 19-29.
Yvette Arañas is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. She was a part of FastBridge Learning’s research team for four years and contributed to developing the FAST™ reading assessments. Yvette is currently completing an internship in school psychology at a rural district in Minnesota.