Student Data Tracking Made Simple
Progress monitoring and student data tracking are an ABSOLUTE MUST as an educator. It doesn’t matter if you teach general education, special education, or intervention groups, you are responsible for monitoring the progress of each individual child. This can be time-consuming and incredibly overwhelming!
After ten years of teaching, I can now say that I have perfected my method for progress monitoring. But wait…let me remind you again, this happened over a period of TEN YEARS! This was not something I decided I was going to do and then it just happened. There was a big learning curve for me. Between figuring out what progress monitoring tools to use, time management, and then actually doing something useful with the data, I spent a lot of time trying to make this work.
But guess what guys? I am now officially obsessed with data. Yup, that’s right. I.LOVE.DATA! By mastering progress monitoring, I have made my life as an educator so much easier. Writing report cards and IEP reports is a breeze. Holding parent-teacher conferences is straight forward and simple. Differentiating for my class no longer makes my head spin. The list of advantages goes on. So I am here to tell you all about it, and to help you with this process as well.
What is Progress Monitoring?
The progress monitoring definition is when we assess children to monitor their academic growth and struggles in specific areas. Progress monitoring includes collecting data that can then be used to drive instruction.
Who Should Track Student Data?
If you are an educator, and under the impression that you don’t have to progress monitor, you are wrong! Whether you teach general education, special education, or anything in between, you should be progress monitoring your students. It will help you develop a deep understanding of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. In turn, this will help you optimize your teaching and target the specific needs of your kids.
When Should I Progress Monitor?
You should be collecting data as often as possible. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be a formal assessment. Informal data collection can be just as helpful as formal data. However, be consistent about when you collect formal data. For example, I always progress monitor, my students, using the same assessment at the start of the year and then at the end of each semester. This specific progress monitoring tool assesses them on all of the key skills for phonics and math that I want them to master by the end of the year. By being consistent with this, I can easily track growth, pinpoint struggles, and get a clear sense of where instruction should be going with my class.
Where Should I Track Student Data?
I’ve administered one-on-one assessments during center time, on the floor in our classroom library, out in the hallway. Anywhere you feel will give you fair results, go ahead and collect that data! Don’t worry about having a perfectly quiet room or finding the perfect environment. As long as your surroundings are not distracting, you can progress monitor.
Why Should I Progress Monitor?
Well, because you can’t successfully do your job without this. I don’t say this as a blanket statement. I say this as someone who stunk at progress monitoring and then worked hard to master it.
Let me share a specific event that is forever etched in my brain. It was my third year teaching (second year in kindergarten) and I had an IEP meeting. I walked into that meeting feeling great. I felt like I would make a great impression on the principal and social worker who was involved in the meeting. The social worker, a lovely lady, ran the meeting. She started with some vague questions, which I nailed, but then she got down to the nitty-gritty. She asked how many sight words this student knew. I said, “She knows her sight words.” Yup, that was my response. She asked about her reading abilities. I said, “She’s a level C.” I had nothing of actual substance to share. The responses I gave were not only vague but useless!
How can we come up with goals and plan for her if I’m saying things like “she knows her sight words.” It was after that meeting that I decided I had to really figure this out. Let me tell you, sitting in a meeting and saying “On November 13th, this student could fluently read 34 sight words.” Or, “On January 20th, Ella could fluently read 7 out of 10 cvc words. This was an increase of 4 words since her last assessment in December.” Concrete facts make for great meetings, great IEP’s, happy parents, and happy teachers.
Student Data Tracking Examples
1. Have an all-in-one progress monitoring assessment
The best thing you can do is have an all-in-one data tracking assessment. One resource that you can use over and over to monitor growth, identify areas of weakness, and collect necessary grade-level data. By doing this you will eliminate the need to hunt for an assessment when it’s time to progress monitor. It’s also really important that you are consistent with the assessments when you are tracking key skills.
Here’s a peek at my go-to data tracking assessments:
This particular resource comes with progress monitoring sheets for key phonics and math skills (available for kindergarten, first and second grade), progress monitoring forms for teachers, and a year-long digital tracker.
It’s important to know what you are going to use so that you are never scrambling to find something to monitor your students. It is equally important to have consistency in your assessments when collecting data.
2. Have a Student Data Tracking Plan
Student data tracking should be happening on some level daily. However, those big assessments, the ones you use to determine small groups, rti decisions, goal setting, etc…those should be well planned.
Student data tracking can be time-consuming, so make a plan for when this will happen. Having a plan at the start of the year will allow you to carve out the appropriate time to properly progress monitor all of your students all year long.
3. Use your Progress Monitoring Data to Drive Instruction
Curriculums are great and all, but do they know your students on an individual basis? Certainly not. I have found every curriculum I have worked with, problematic in one way or another. Although my list of complaints is long, my biggest one has to be the lack of differentiation available. So now imagine that your curriculum does not offer ideas for differentiation AND you are not exactly sure as to where each individual student stands. How would you plan proper instruction? You have to be able to pinpoint the exact area each child is at, so that you can properly plan out whole group and small group lessons.
An easy way to manage the data you collect is to use a file folder and post-it method (as shown above). After completing our progress monitoring phonics assessments, I looked at which skills I had to focus on for each child. Inside of a file folder, I wrote the phonics skills and placed each student’s name (on a post-it) in the appropriate column. Now I know who to bunch together for small groups and what to focus on with them. Once a child masters the skill they are working on, I simply take their post-it, and move it to the next column and small group.
4. Begin Monitoring Progress Towards Individual Goals
Progress monitoring in special education is imperative and an everyday task. Proper data tracking allows you to write IEP goals and then work towards mastering them. I use a digital tracker that once the information is put in, color codes into green, yellow, or red. This allows me to easily identify specific information. If I’m looking to see which skills as a whole my class needs to work on, I look for a column of majority yellow and red. If I’m looking to see which skills my class as a whole has mastered, I look for majority green. The same goes for individual students. My color-coded system helps me directly identify where I need to focus my attention on each child, and allows me to work towards their goals.
5. Keep Families Informed
Lastly, remember to keep families informed. Share this data with them. Provide them with suggestions for what they should be doing at home. By providing families with clear and specific information, you help them to better understand their little learners.
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