Progress monitoring isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It’s how your child’s school measures his skills and keeps track of how well he’s responding to a certain teaching method or instructional intervention. Charting your child’s progress over time can help the school decide whether he needs to be taught in a different way.
How Progress Monitoring Works
Many schools use a process called response to intervention (RTI). RTI identifies struggling learners and uses targeted teaching to improve skills. A big part of RTI is measuring students’ skills using a scientifically based assessment. This means that researchers have studied the test or way of looking at your child’s skills and say it’s reliable.
A common form of progress monitoring is curriculum-based measurement (CBM). CBM tracks your child’s progress in speciﬁc skill areas, such as reading, spelling or math. The first test provides the “baseline.” This is the level of skill your child starts with. The teacher uses your child’s baseline to help set a goal of where he should be by the end of the intervention.
“Charting your child’s progress over time can help the school decide whether he needs to be taught in a different way.”
For example, early on in the school year, your child’s teacher may measure all of her students’ reading skills. Let’s say this test shows that your child can correctly read 50 words per minute. This baseline puts him at risk of failing for the year. The school’s RTI team chooses a reading intervention program and sets a goal for your child to read 70 words per minute after 12 weeks.
The teacher will work with your child in small group lessons. She’ll test his reading skills weekly or every other week to see how close he’s getting to the goal. She’ll keep track on a graph. The graph will show how much progress your child is making over time.
What a Progress Monitoring Graph Looks Like
A progress monitoring graph shows your child’s baseline, the goal he’s working toward and how he does on every assessment during the intervention period. Here’s how the graph is set up.
The y-axis: The vertical line on the left side of the graph represents the number of words per minute.
The x-axis: The horizontal line on the bottom of the graph represents the number of weeks of your child has been receiving a particular kind of reading instruction.
Your child’s baseline: This is the first dot, showing 50 words per minute. Every week your child’s progress is measured. Another dot is added showing how many words per minute he read correctly during the latest assessment.
Your child’s goal-line: This shows how much progress your child needs to make on average each week to reach the goal of reading 70 words per minute. This line is sometimes called a benchmark or aim line.
Your child’s trend-line: This shows your child’s actual performance over time.
Focusing on the Trend-Line
The trend-line provides important information. It can help the RTI team decide what to do next. Here are three possibilities:
The trend-line isn’t moving closer to the goal-line. This is what’s being shown in the sample graph in this article. A trend-line like this one indicates that not enough progress is being made. The RTI team needs to try a different instruction method that might work better.
The trend-line is moving closer to the goal-line. This kind of trend-line shows a teaching intervention is working and should be continued.
The trend-line meets the goal-line. This means the intervention was successful and can be stopped. But your child’s progress should still be monitored.
Throughout the RTI process, the teacher should share your child’s progress with you. If you’re not getting regular updates, ask to get a copy of the graph after each assessment. As you work with your child’s teacher, keep in mind that words per minute isn’t all that there is to reading. There are other important skills, too, such as how well your child understands what he reads.