progress monitoring in special education

How to Organize Progress Monitoring in Special Education

Are you wondering how to stay organized as a special education teacher? Progress monitoring in special education can seem super overwhelming at first. There is so much to do and so many documents to keep in order. Finding a system to organize your progress monitoring for IEP goals is essential to preventing burnout. Check out this post to learn more about the basics of progress monitoring.


Organization tips for progress monitoring in special education



I used to hate cooking. I don’t mean I didn’t enjoy cooking, I mean I used to absolutely loathe cooking. The idea of making a meal every single night for dinner just felt so overwhelming. When we first got married, money was super tight, so we didn’t have the luxury of ordering out all the time. I also noticed that if I just went to the grocery store every day and picked up something for dinner, I was always way over budget. 


Luckily I had amazing friends who were experts on meal planning and shopping on a budget who taught me how to make a schedule and introduced me to the glorious store of Aldi. If you are a part of the cult of people that shop at Aldi, Sister, I feel you. Nothing makes me happier than saving a ton of money and only having to grocery shop once. Now, I basically make some version of the same set of meals each week. That may seem super boring to you. But for me, having a system for planning meals literally saves me hours each week. I can plan a whole week of dinners and make a grocery list in about fifteen minutes now. Cue the song, “We are the Champions,” because I am totally singing it right now.


Rachel, what the heck does this have to do with progress monitoring in special education? Well let me tell you. In my first year of teaching, I definitely didn’t have a system for organizing progress monitoring for iep goals. Each week, I would make a list of all the goals I had to monitor and would photocopy resources to use to track those goals. I only had 10 students so it didn’t take forever, but I was regularly staying at school past 6 PM. 


This was a terrible system when my caseload doubled in size. It was taking me so long to get everything together and I was constantly finding goals I forgot to monitor. (Yes, I know that is bad but I also know that we have all been there). I never want you to be in that spot where you are panicking to find progress monitoring tools for IEP goals. 



In this post, I am going to share how I set up my progress monitoring so that I can run it on autopilot. Get ready to save yourself hours of stress by putting in a little more work up front. 


1. Know your student’s IEP Goals


This is super important. Whether you get a whole new caseload each year or you loop with students year after year, the first thing you need to do is know their IEP goals. Now I am definitely not saying to print all the 30-page IEPs and just magically remember all the goals. If you can do that, you go girlfriend! Personally, I have a hard time keeping it all straight even when I wrote the IEP’s! 


I always start out by making an IEP at a Glance for each student. I write out their name, teacher, related services, goal areas and levels, assessment accommodations and specially designed instructional strategies. This is super helpful to me because it pulls the main components out of the IEP and fits on a single sheet of paper. If you want me to send you a copy of my IEP at a glance, tell me where to send it below.



Not to be dramatic, but this form literally is a life-saver. Make a ton of copies of it! Keep a copy in your sub binder and in your para binder. I also give copies to the classroom teacher and to all the related arts teachers (gym, art, library, music, etc.). This is one way I ensure that I have communicated the IEP with everyone who needs to know. My teachers are always so grateful to get these forms because some of them have a hard time finding the information they need inside of the IEP. Let’s be honest, does the art teacher who has 600 students have the time to fully read every single IEP and find the strategies that apply for their class?


2. Make a list


Now it’s time to make a list of all the goals that you need to monitor. You can organize this list by student, but I prefer to do it by goal area. That way, I can see that four of my students will need monitoring for math computation. Next, find progress monitoring tools for iep goals. Your school may already have resources that everyone uses to stay consistent. In my experience, we always used AIMSweb for reading fluency, math computation and math application. Sometimes, you may have to find your own resources so try google or teachers pay teachers to look for whatever you need. 


3. Make copies for at least a marking period


Here is the part that will save you time in the long run. Copy at least a whole marking period worth of progress monitoring documents. I grab manilla file folders and label it with the student’s name, goal area, and level. Then, inside I will put enough copies for at least 8 weeks. As I start progress monitoring, I write the dates that I collected data on the front of the folder. 


How you store these folders is up to you! Personally, I like to keep these folders by the teaching materials I will use when I will be able to collect data. For example, if I student has a goal for math computation, I would keep the progress monitoring folder with my teacher materials for their math lessons. I use these book bins to organize my teaching materials by lesson. Then, I label the bin with the time and the lesson. Inside, I keep a clipboard with my lesson plans and progress monitoring folders. Any teaching manuals or materials also go in this bin.


4. Set up data binders for progress monitoring in special education


Now that you know how you will collect your data, it is time to figure out how to store completed sheets. There are two main ways to organize progress monitoring in special education: digital or print. Depending on your school, you may have requirements for how you record your data. You should check with your colleagues before trying to reinvent the wheel here. 


You can do a mix of both! I like to use these digital graphs to record data so that I can visually see the progress over time. You can also keep the paper copies in binders. I use these editable paper goal sheets to record data. Then, I put one sheet per goal and use binder tabs to separate the different goals. As I collect data, I put the completed sheets in that corresponding data tab. At any time, I can grab a student’s binder, turn to the reading fluency tab and flip through all their previous progress monitoring. 


This can feel like a lot of work at first, but I promise you it is a system that will save you so much time throughout the year. Think about how easy writing IEP progress reports will be when all your data is up-to-date and in one place. 


Note on binders: I like these 1 inch binders. They are super sturdy and last for a few years. Though I have been tempted to get the cheapest binders I can find because you know I’m on a budget, it just is such a waste of money. They break after a year and you have to get new ones. I like having the clear sleeve to put a label with their name on the spine. I personally have found that anything smaller than an inch runs out of space by the end of the year. 


5. Make a schedule for when you are collecting data and write it down!

With any system, you have to make a schedule and stick to it. For goals that need to be monitored weekly, assign specific days for each goal. Here is what I typically do:


  • Monday- reading fluency and sight words
  • Tuesday – decoding
  • Wednesday – encoding
  • Thursday – math (alternating computation and application)
  • Friday – math word problems


For goals that are monitored every other week or once a month, I schedule them and mark them in my planner. That way I know how recently I collected data on that goal. These are the goals I often get behind on because they aren’t done as regularly as the weekly goals.


progress monitoring tools for iep goals


Feel like an expert in progress monitoring in special education?

Then, you go girl! The goal here is to find what works for you! If these systems work for you and you can save yourself some stress throughout the school year, then it is totally worth the extra work at the beginning of the year. 


In summary, create a system to organize progress monitoring in special education. Set yourself a schedule. Save yourself time. You’ve got this teacher!

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Hi, I'm Rachel!

I am a second grade learning support teacher, adjunct professor and momma to two little girls! I help teachers like you get organized and create systems to save time.

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