The correct answer is progress monitoring is Closing Achievement Gaps. Without progress monitoring we are saying all students not only can’t learn but won’t learn. RTI/MTSS is both data-driven instruction and differentiation.
Over my 20 year education career, I attended and witnessed 504, IEP and SST meetings that didn’t have progress monitoring data. Indeed once we were sued for compensatory services because we didn’t provide the legally required services.
I had to apologize to the parent as I took responsibility for the school’s failure. I vowed not to let that happen again. From that moment forward our admin team put a plan together to ensure that progress monitoring occurred. I will go into the details of the collaborative process, but suffice it to say that since everyone had to do the work everyone was involved in deciding how to do the work.
Weekly I met with the RTI and special ed lead teacher to review the status. During these meetings we discussed how to remove barriers and celebrate our growth. We examined data and modeled crucial conversations with staff to support and hold people accountable. These conversations embodied progress monitoring. If the data showed that something did not work we changed it.
All Students Shall Learn
Progress Monitoring is Data-Driven Instruction
Essential to the plan was data. The data shined a bright light on different populations. It helped us to achieve 1.5 years of growth in one school year. Progress monitoring is quintessentially data driven instruction. The only difference is that here it is a legal mandate rather than a suggested best practice. The progress monitoring process reveals the health of one’s instructional practices. It highlighted growth areas in our instruction. The data provided evidence for crucial conversations with teachers, students, and parents. If we are not assessing for learning and then adjusting instruction accordingly for the legally required then it may suggest that we are not doing it across the board.
Not participating in the IEP/SST meeting or not discussing it at the leadership team meeting, etc. shows what we value. Let’s take it further, waiting until the IEP meeting is still too late. Administrators have to first regularly get the data on the meetings, progress monitoring, etc. prior to the meeting in order to have time to address concerns as molehills before they become mountains and ensure that all students learn, albeit at different paces and ways.
While pursuing my first administrator position, a mentor advised that I should always put children first. Like all sayings, this one can lose its meaning. How does this wisdom apply to progress monitoring? Oftimes we see progress monitoring as something extra and worse just another burdensome process that takes away from teaching. It can’t be seen as separate from children but rather one and the same. We have to change our perspective to where we see it as an essential part of teaching and learning that ensures that all kids learn. Don’t get me wrong RTI is not easy.
Progress Monitoring Closes Achievement Gaps…How do we begin this heavy lift?
We have to invest time and money into managing this RTI/MTSS process. What does this look like?
- First we need to get our tier one instruction and culture correct. Of course that is an ongoing process.
- While we work on our tier one, we should have a school wide RTI plan that places a safety net under all groups.
- Make progress monitoring a school priority by making it a standing item on admin and leadership team agendas, attending meetings, supporting the Lead Teacher, regularly attend those IEP meetings and offer feedback.
- Next we should support teachers with the resources and training to effectively progress monitor.
- Be clear on the preferred collab model for your building.
- Establish common planning time where the special education teacher attends the planning sessions to plan and determine who does what in the classroom.
- Finally we need to provide resources for teachers to easily document their efforts. After eliminating all of the other pain points we don’t want paperwork to prevent us from doing right by children and documenting our efforts. As we all know if it is not documented then it didn’t happen.
By no means is this definitive list. But it will get you started.
Why do this? When we establish a culture that says all students shall learn, growth occurs, achievement comes to pass, and rich data driven conversations take place. Now teacher evaluations on academically challenging environment standards are based on data rather than conjecture and brief and infrequent snapshots of the classroom. With a system in place, the rating actually means something.