RTI-Springing into Your Progress Monitoring

It’s the time of year, where those last minute special education referrals come in. I know for my team we have to have most of our paperwork in by the beginning of May because we are changing IEP systems for next year. Most of the questions I field these days are do we or don’t we. So I thought that this would be a good reminder for all who are on the fence about a kidoo.  Most of the time it boils down to adequate progress but what does that look like.

It looks different for each kid. I look at the progress monitoring data and the classroom data. I ask myself, “What does one expect for a typical student and can they do that?” For example take MAPS testing-we don’t really use it for anything but I do like the act that all students take it and I can get the average class score, the average gap, the student’s gap and compare numbers. I do the same with iReady. We don’t use much in the way of progress monitoring like DIBELs or AIMSweb.

Elements of Effective Progress-Monitoring Measures

To be effective, progress-monitoring measures must be available in alternate forms, comparable in difficulty and conceptualization, and representative of the performance desired at the end of the year. Measures that vary in difficulty and conceptualization over time could possibly produce inconsistent results that may be difficult to quantify and interpret. Likewise, using the same measure for each administration may produce a testing effect, wherein performance on a subsequent administration is influenced by student familiarity with the content.

By using measures that have alternate forms and are comparable in difficulty and conceptualization, a teacher can use slope (e.g., academic performance across time) to quantify rate of learning. Slope can also be used to measure a student’s response to a specific instructional program, signaling a need for program adjustment when responsiveness is inadequate. Excel spreadsheets are great to add trend lines and other data points to create a plug and play graph.
Effective progress-monitoring measures should also be short and easily administered by a classroom teacher or special education teacher.

Common Progress-Monitoring Measures

Progress can be monitored by a variety of methods. From a norm-referenced standpoint, it is possible to use widely available assessments such as the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE; Torgesen et al., 1999) or the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Battery (Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001). With such tests, alternate forms are available to demonstrate student improvement over time, but usually there is at least three months between administrations (Fletcher et al., 2007). Other measures, such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 2001), have been reviewed by the National Center for Student Progress Monitoring and vary considerably in reliability, validity, and other key progress-monitoring standards.
CBM is a form of classroom assessment that 1) describes academic competence in reading, spelling, and mathematics; 2) tracks academic development; and 3) improves student achievement. It can be used to determine the effectiveness of the instruction for all students and to enhance educational programs for students who are struggling.

I hope these ideas help you out as we move into Spring. Be sure to pick up a freebie too.


  1. Thank you for joining us and sharing such important information. I struggle at times with not being sure of what the best plan of action is with some kiddos.

  2. Thank you for the ideas and suggestions. It is hard sometimes to know when a child is simply struggling in school and when there is something wrong. Thanks for the advice!


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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