What Is the Purpose of Progress Monitoring in MTSS?
Effective progress monitoring is critical for a successful MTSS/RTI practice. In addition to universal screening assessments—which are given to all students three times a year—, students receiving Tier 2 or 3 levels of support should be given a progress monitoring assessment every other week or weekly, respectively. These data allow us to have better visibility into whether or not our support is working for a given student, and more importantly, when it's not so that we can adjust the intervention approach quickly to better meet the needs of that student.
Assessments used for progress monitoring should be quick, skill (not content) based, and valid and reliable (i.e., having demonstrated to accurately and consistently measure what they are supposed to be evaluating). The Center for Intensive Intervention has a helpful chart that evaluates and compares these qualities for common progress monitoring assessments.
Setting the Right SMART Goal
After collecting a baseline score with your progress monitoring assessment, it’s important to articulate clear criteria for what is deemed to be sufficient improvement by developing a goal. A useful acronym to guide this process is SMART.
Specific: they should have a clear articulation of what you are trying to accomplish
Example: The student will improve reading fluency.
Measurable: they should be evaluated using a quantitative assessment
Example: The student will improve reading fluency as measured by aimswebPlus Oral Reading Fluency
Attainable: they should be both feasible and ambitious
Example: The student will improve reading fluency as measured by moving from the 18th to the 25th percentile on aimswebPlus Oral Reading Fluency
Relevant: they should be grounded in clear context of why you’ve determined the goal
Example: The student will improve reading fluency as measured by moving from the 18th to the 25th percentile on aimswebPlus Oral Reading Fluency. Reaching the 25th percentile meets our district criteria for returning to tier 1 level of support.
Time-bound: they should clearly state when the goal should be achieved
Example: The student will improve reading fluency as measured by moving from the 18th to the 25th percentile on aimswebPlus Oral Reading Fluency by 12/15/2020. Reaching the 25th percentile meets our district criteria for returning to tier 1 level of support.
How To Interpret Progress Monitoring Data
In order to clearly see student progress, it’s important to graph their assessment data and compare the rate of their improvement (ROI) to the ROI needed to meet their goal. The student’s ROI can be seen by plotting their data points and examining the trend line for their performance.
The ROI needed to meet the goal can be seen by plotting a line from the baseline score to the goal score. The comparison of those two lines will help you determine if the student is on track to meet the goal.
1. Sufficient Growth (ROI)
If the trend line is steeper than the goal line, this demonstrates the minimum desired growth has been achieved and the intervention is likely working. (A general guideline to consider is that in addition to the trend line, the last 2-3 data points should also be above the goal line in order for the student to have demonstrated consistent improved performance.)
If those criteria are met, and class performance has also improved, it's appropriate to reduce the intensity or level of support. If the student meets the goal but classroom performance has not improved, the RTI/MTSS team should engage in individual problem solving to identify possible explanations.
2. Uncertain Growth (ROI)
If the trend line is wavering around the goal line, then a closer look into the intervention would be helpful. A good place to start is checking if the student is actually receiving the intervention at the intended “dosage.” If the student is frequently absent, or scheduling conflicts result in the student not really receiving the intended level of support, those issues should be addressed before changing the intervention.
Next, it is helpful to check if the intervention is being delivered with fidelity or if the teacher providing the intervention needs support or guidance on how it should be delivered. If the intervention is being adequately delivered, check to see if other students receiving the same support are showing better progress. If the student showing a questionable ROI is falling behind their peers, consider changing the intervention for that student.
3. Insufficient Growth (ROI)
If the trend line is falling below the goal line and the gap is widening, that should be a clear indication that the intervention is not working for the student and the plan should be changed.
As with uncertain growth, first, check to see if the student is actually receiving the intervention, and address any issues interfering with delivery before changing the intervention. If it’s being delivered with the intended dosage, it may be a good time to connect with the MTSS/RTI team to revisit the student’s past data and develop a new support plan that includes any of the following adjustments:
A focus on a different and/or more foundational skill
Dr. Dundas is the Chief Learning Officer of Branching Minds, where she pursues her mission to bridge the gap between the science of learning and education practice. Dr. Dundas has a Ph.D. in Developmental and Cognitive Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University where she conducted research on how the brain develops when children acquire visual expertise for words and faces. Her research also explores how the relationship between neural systems (specifically language and visual processing) unfolds over development, and how those dynamics differ with neurodevelopmental disorders like dyslexia and autism. She has published articles on that subject in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Neuropsychologia, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Dr. Dundas also has a M.Ed. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University; and a B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh.