As with any assessment, the purpose of administration and scoring is to use the data collected to make instructional decisions. The collection and review of progress monitoring data is another important layer in your campus's ongoing data-based decision-making process.
You and your team can use your Assessment Audit to guide your discussion about the instructional decisions made from the progress monitoring assessments administered at your campus. For each instrument, discuss these questions:
What are the data from this instrument used for? In other words, what decisions will be made based on this data?
Are the criteria for this decision defined?
If yes, are the criteria communicated to teachers and other stakeholders?
Are the criteria implemented routinely?
You can refer to the third column of the Assessment Audit form for this discussion.
What decisions will be made based on this data?
Unlike screening and diagnostic assessments, progress monitoring is a regular, ongoing practice. The purpose is to help teachers adjust, monitor, and change their instruction on a regular basis to better address students' needs. Formative progress monitoring assessments may inform decisions about students' instructional needs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. As teachers collect and review formative assessment data such as student work samples or teacher-created tests, teachers may decide to reteach or reinforce concepts for which a significant number of students are struggling. In conjunction with screening data, language proficiency data, and other diagnostic data on students, teachers can use formative progress monitoring data to design and plan small-group instruction, to differentiate instruction based on students' needs, and to monitor the impact of those instructional decisions.
For students who have specific instructional needs or who are receiving intervention instruction, teachers and interventionists will also analyze formal progress monitoring data. The decisions you and your staff may make for these students, based on trends in progress monitoring data, include the following:
A decision to adjust intervention instruction. Teachers may reinforce or reteach specific skills, adjust the pace of instruction, and/or ensure greater fidelity to the intervention.
A decision to set new instructional goals based on the degree to which students progressed toward previously targeted literacy goals.
A decision to change the intensity of an intervention. You may decrease intensity for students showing consistent improvement or increase intensity for students consistently performing below targeted goals.
A decision to regroup students to fit instructional need. Based on students' response to instruction, they may be regrouped with students identified with the same targeted needs.
Remember, there needs to be specific criteria in place for determining when and how these decisions are made. Not all options are appropriate at any given point in time, as you will learn in the next section. See the To Learn More section below for a resource that explores interventions and considerations for intensifying intervention.
What criteria will be used for these decisions?
When practitioners review progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions, they don't usually rely on a single score on a single assessment. The goal of progress monitoring is to identify trends in student learning and growth toward literacy goals through analysis of multiple data points. Therefore, it is important that staff understand how to identify trends and know the specific criteria set for when and how decisions about students are made.
You and your leadership team will want to set expectations for reviewing and interpreting progress monitoring data. You may consider the criteria that work best for you and your assessment system based on evidence of best practice. Lesson A2—Identifying students at risk discusses establishing cut scores for identifying students as at risk. As with that process, you can use national norms for literacy progress or establish norms based on your local population. Keep in mind that the latter option requires statistical expertise to analyze and develop these norms using a large student sample size.
The brief Common Progress Monitoring Graph Omissions: Making Instructional Decisions, available from the Center on Response to Intervention, discusses two common methods for analyzing progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions. One of these methods is the Four Point Method, in which teachers examine the most recent four data points after instruction has occurred for at least six data points and then make instructional decisions based on students' progress compared to the goal line. In addition, the brief describes the Trend Line Analysis Method, in which educators examine the trend line after four weeks of instruction have occurred and at least eight data points have been collected.
Regardless of the method, you and your leadership team may want to support a team approach to intervention decisions that includes reading specialists or similarly qualified staff. Many teachers may need help in analyzing their own instruction and identifying accurate progress monitoring trends before determining whether students are responding adequately to a specific intervention.
For example, a reading specialist working with a grade-level team noticed that a student's trend line for fluency was flat. Further testing revealed that the student had gaps in decoding skills. The reading specialist guided the team in setting a short-term goal for decoding, with a very steep goal line. In other words, they planned an intense intervention to help the student close the gap in decoding in just a few weeks. Once this was accomplished, the team created a new goal line for fluency. This goal line represented a new estimate of what the student could achieve now that he had more solid decoding skills. For students with more entrenched skill gaps, especially at higher grade levels, the reading specialist may guide the team to set goal lines that take a longer view at progress, with short interim targets and a longer time period for intervention.
Ensuring collaboration and communication in the decision-making process
One of the challenges that practitioners face in the data-based decision-making process is allocating time and resources for effective communication about students' progress across tiers of instruction. Depending on who provides intervention instruction at your campus, you may need to allocate time for the different providers and classroom teachers to meet and analyze progress monitoring data.
In an effective RTI framework, students' literacy goals are set collaboratively and shared among providers in all tiers of instruction. Based on screening, diagnostics, and other forms of data, practitioners can set grade-level goals, along with group or individual student goals. By looking at the data in teams, classroom teachers and interventionists share a collaborative understanding of what literacy skills they need to target at a grade level (in core Tier I instruction) and at the group and individual student levels (in Tiers II and III instruction). Thus, progress monitoring data is analyzed collaboratively to determine if those goals are being achieved.
Finally, you may need to set up systems for as-needed communication between core teachers and interventionists so that knowledge of how students are progressing is shared on a regular basis. This ensures alignment of instruction across tiers. In the To Learn More section below, you will find some resources that provide guidance in conducting data meetings to analyze progress monitoring data.
To conclude, progress monitoring is an integral component of an effective instructional framework and includes both formal and informal types of assessment. To gain a valid picture of how all students are progressing toward targeted literacy goals, educators need a strong understanding of how to systematically track students' progress and adjust instruction accordingly. When the responsibility of accelerating students' progress toward literacy goals is shared collaboratively across all tiers of instruction, students can have the most success and achieve improved outcomes.
TO LEARN MORE: Case studies and example scenarios can be helpful in understanding how to implement successful progress monitoring. The following are some resources that provide practical examples from the field for progress monitoring in grades K–5.
“Linking Progress Monitoring Results to Interventions,” available on the RTI Action Network site, provides guidance and resources in using progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions. The article provides an in-depth case to illustrate possible courses of action in tracking a student's progress and targeting needs.
The National Center on Student Progress Monitoring, currently operating under the Center on Response to Intervention at American Institutes for Research, provides a number of resources for using progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions:
“How Progress Monitoring Assists Decision Making in a Response-to-Instruction Framework,” by Deborah Speece, uses two cases to illustrate how practitioners interpret progress monitoring data to make instructional decisions.
The Grade One Reading Case Study: Decoding and the Grade Four Reading Case Study: Comprehension, both by Devin Kearns, are two detailed case studies that highlight the integral role of progress monitoring in RTI using fictional scenarios that guide you through the framework and provide opportunities to test your understanding.
Designing and Delivering Intensive Interventions: A Teacher's Toolkit, from the Center on Instruction, provides extensive guidance on intervention instruction. See pages 35–55 for considerations for intensifying interventions.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in using assessment data to identify students at risk for literacy difficulties at your campus, you may want to consider the following next steps:
Discuss how progress monitoring data is used to make instructional decisions and how you ensure the validity of the data. You may use the third and fourth columns of the Assessment Audit to think through these issues.
Gather and review the administration manuals and procedures for each progress monitoring assessment used at your campus.
Determine which staff members have been trained in administering and scoring the various assessments used at your campus.
Assess and address staff professional development needs regarding setting goals, analyzing progress monitoring data, and charting growth.
Determine procedures for gathering and sharing additional data to support valid decisions for English learners.