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RTI/MTSS Progress monitoring MTSS in Secondary School

As a professional development consultant for Branching Minds, I work with teachers and administrators from all over the country.  A question I frequently get asked is how should progress monitoring look at the middle school and high school levels? If you are a secondary school teacher and are working under the practice of MTSS or the RTI process you have probably scratched your head over this question many times as well. Today you are in luck! In this post, I will discuss why you should be progress monitoring, what assessments are appropriate for progress monitoring, how these assessments are administered, and when you should progress monitor students. My hope is to give you practical steps and tools to put into practice, like Branching Minds, I aim to make the best practices actually practicable!

Why Progress Monitoring at the Secondary level?

Whether you are in a school setting working within a data-based individualization process (DBI), or an MTSS/RTI framework, progress monitoring is a key component.  It is also a crucial piece in the Branching Minds problem-solving model approach.


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While working with students in both middle and high schools you likely see many struggling learners who have significant deficits in academic skills. You have developed goals for your struggling students and have an intervention plan prepared to fill in gaps.  Why should you periodically monitor those students? Simply put,  you need to know if those students are on track to achieve the academic goal you developed and whether the intervention being delivered is effective toward reaching those goals.

In short, through progress monitoring you are able to:

  • Compare the effectiveness of interventions
  • See the student’s rate of improvement (ROI) over time
  • Identify the student’s lacking progress
  • Determine need for adjusting a student’s plan


The reason for progress monitoring is simple: it gives you data to measure whether the intervention a student is receiving is actually helping them close gaps in their learning.


Related Resource:

How to use progress monitoring data to guide decision making in an MTSS practice

What Progress Monitoring Assessments Are Appropriate for Secondary Students?

I can already hear my secondary friends saying, “I don’t know what to use,” or “I don’t have time.”  Let’s look at some recommendations and options for you and your students.

CBMs - Curriculum-Based Measures: 

A simple set of procedures for repeated measurement of student growth toward long-range instructional goals. (Deno, 1985). CBMs are inexpensive, easy-to-use, and allow you to continuously measure your students’ growth in response to the goals you developed and the intervention being delivered.

A standard reading CBM for secondary schools would be the use of MAZE reading comprehension passages. This is a 3 min measure of a grade-level appropriate reading passage in which students choose from 3 choices to fill in missing information. University of Oregon DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy) and Acadience Reading both offer free MAZE measures up to 8th grade.  Intervention Central has a MAZE passage generator that allows secondary teachers to create this progress monitoring measure quickly and easily.

A CBM for secondary students in Language Arts would be a simple 7-minute response to a narrative prompt. If the progress monitoring is taking place weekly, then a 5-minute response would be adequate. See Espin, Skare, Shin, Deno, Robinson, & Brenner, (2000).  A CBM measure will allow you to gauge whether students are making progress in written expression.

A CBM can be created for other content areas using a 5-minute vocabulary matching requiring students to match terms and definitions; a good predictor of student progress.

There is a wealth of research and information in regards to utilizing CBMs, especially in secondary schools. The University of Minnesota has The Research Institute on Progress Monitoring. The suggestions provided above are based on their work. Dedicating 3-7 minutes every 2 or 3 weeks for progress monitoring will give you invaluable insight into the progress of your students!  Even in the secondary school setting where every instructional minute is precious, that progress monitoring schedule is totally feasible. No more excuses!

In addition to CBMs, there are many progress monitoring “products” which can be purchased and there are sites that can help you sift through and narrow down your options according to research. The National Center on Intensive Intervention has a progress monitoring tools chart that rates tools according to: performance level standards, growth standards, and usability. Utilizing their filters you can drill down to only those instruments that apply to secondary schools. Some featured tools on this chart are: AimsWeb, Easy CBM, I-Ready, IStation, STAR, and M-Class. 


How and When should these Assessments be Administered?

Now that you have some ideas about what progress monitoring instruments are available, it is time to plan the “how” and “when” of administering them. Here at Branching Minds we recommend that for students in need of Tier 2 support commonly classroom teachers monitor progress twice monthly, (more often as concern increases, may need multiple assessments for reliability), and for students in need of Tier 3 level of support commonly interventionists or classroom teachers monitor progress weekly.  Your district may have different guidelines for the frequency of progress monitoring and it may vary depending on the instrument as well, but no matter how or when you progress monitor students’ performance, it is crucial that you “Just Do It!”


Related Resource:

What does progress monitoring look like in RTI / MTSS


Now What?

We have spent some time answering the questions of the “why,” “what,” “how,” and “when” of progress monitoring students’ growth in secondary schools.  Where does that lead you?  I hope straight into putting progress monitoring measures in place for your students in middle school and high school. I hope you are more informed regarding the need for progress monitoring and found a number of resources you can use.  I hope you give students the opportunity to show growth over the time they spend in your classroom.


Related Resource:

MTSS in Secondary Schools: Major Challenges and How to Overcome Them



Deno, S. L. (1985). Curriculum-based measurement: The emerging alternative.

Espin, C.A., & Deno, S.L. (1995).  Curriculum-based measures for secondary students:  Utility and task specificity of text-based reading and vocabulary measures for predicting performance on content-area tasks

Espin, C.A., Skare, S., Shin, J., Deno, S.L., Robinson, S. & Brenner, B. (2000).  Identifying indicators of growth in written expression for middle-school students. 


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Tagged: RTI/MTSS, Progress monitoring, MTSS in Secondary School

June 9, 2021

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