tools for progress monitoring

Top 5 Tools for Progress Monitoring

Tools for progress monitoring are a necessary component of any special education classroom. Every special ed teacher knows how critical it is to have systems for progress monitoring. Imagine trying to bake a cake for your sweet Nana’s birthday. The only problem is that you have no recipe. That’s okay, you are a trained baker. You can figure it out on your own, right? One more tiny problem, you don’t have any ingredients needed to bake a cake. Well, that is quite the challenge then.


Trying to run a special education classroom without effective tools for progress monitoring is just like baking a cake without a recipe and without ingredients. Can it be done? Technically, it can. Is it going to be something you are proud to show your sweet Nana?  It probably isn’t.


Today, I am sharing my secrets on all my favorite progress monitoring tools for special education. This is a great place to start when it comes to looking for materials to help you track data towards your students’ IEP goals.


In Top 5 Tools for Progress Monitoring, we will discuss:

  • Reading Measurements
  • Writing Assessments
  • Math Assessments
  • Behavior Tracking Forms
  • Progress Monitoring Graphs

progress monitoring tools for special education

Tools for Progress Monitoring Reading Goals


It can be hard to narrow down the area of reading because there are just so many components included. Typically, I first look at phonemic awareness skills to be sure the student is able to blend and segment skills before we move onto alphabet skills and phonics. Once a student is mastering a few phonics patterns, we can start assessing reading fluency. Eventually, we will make it to reading comprehension. 


When considering progress monitoring for special education, it is important to be sure that you have a tool that is research-based, valid and reliable. It should also be easy to use. I also find it super helpful if it is robust, meaning that I will have enough unique probes that I won’t have to repeat probes throughout the school year. 


My go to resource for reading goals is AIMSweb. Both districts I have taught in use AIMSweb for tracking progress in both reading and math goals. AIMSweb provides progress monitoring probes for initial sounds, letter naming fluency, phoneme segmentation, letter word sounds fluency, word reading fluency, nonsense word fluency, oral reading fluency, and silent reading fluency.


My favorite thing about AIMSweb probes is that they are quick to administer. Reading fluency probes are timed for one minute. As your caseload grows, it helps to have probes that do not take a lot of time. There are also enough probes to last an entire school year! No more running out and having to repeat probes! 


Personally, I do not use the word reading probes. I write my decoding goals to align with the Wilson Reading System since that is what we are using for instruction. You can use the Wilson books to monitor goals. I like to use these decoding and encoding lists because it gives me room to mark errors and easily clips onto a clipboard. 


Check out more about how to simplify progress monitoring for decoding iep goals.


Writing Progress Monitoring for Special Education


Writing can be tricky to track! There are so many skills involved in writing a sentence and a paragraph. You have to look at your student’s individual levels and decide what type of goal is appropriate. Before you can choose a tool for progress monitoring, you need to know what is the purpose of the goal. Is the student working on writing a complete sentence? Is the student focusing on developing a paragraph? Do you want to focus more on how many words the student writes? Options are endless!


One way to progress monitoring the area of writing is using curriculum-based measurements. This tool starts with a prompt or a story starter. Students then have four minutes to think and respond to the prompt. There are different ways to score this assessment. You could score for number of words written, number of letters written, number of words spelled correctly, or number of writing units placed in the correct sequence. 


In my classroom, I prefer to use writing rubrics to assess our writing goals. As a 2nd grade learning support teacher, most of my students are working towards writing a paragraph. All of our learning support teachers got together and created rubrics focusing on sentence writing, single paragraphs (simple and complex), and multi paragraph essays. We now have a continuum of goals and rubrics for students to work through. It helps to be on the same page as your colleagues!


Tracking Math Goals


Math goals can fall into many different categories. First, students may focus on patterns, number identification and counting. Eventually, they start to focus on math computation (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing). Students can also have needs in math concepts and applications. Concepts and Applications includes a wide range of math skills such as telling time, counting money, skip counting, reading graphs, identifying shapes, etc. 


AIMSweb is still my favorite way to monitor math goals. AIMSweb has many different subsets to assess number naming, quantity total fluency, quantity difference fluency, concepts & applications, math fact fluency, and math computation. One of the reasons that I like using AIMSweb probes is that it provides you with clear norms and rate of improvement. This takes the guesswork out of goal setting. You can take your baseline data, look at the expected rate of improvement and set an achievable IEP goal. 


progress monitoring graph for special education


Behavior Tracking Forms


I find behavior goals to be the most difficult to track. Each behavior goal is specific to the individual student so it is not as simple as reading fluency or math computation where I can reference norms and use an expected rate of improvement to calculate a goal. Some behavior IEP goals are easier to measure because there are specific behaviors such as identifying expected and unexpected behaviors when given a scenario during social skills instruction. Figuring out how to track behaviors across a day can be more complicated.


Ideally, we would be able to track data throughout a student’s day to use as progress monitoring data. Paper charts worked well for a while until a student would destroy the chart when it showed poor performance. Also, my students would often forget to have their teacher fill out the form or lose it entirely. This was a huge issue.


Digital behavior charts have been a game changer! Using Google Sheets, I was able to share charts virtually with any teacher who needed to add input. I created little drop down menus so that completing the form would be simple for all teachers. The best part is that I found a way to get the data to automatically transfer over to graphs. These are great visuals for parents to see progress. Since trend lines are included on the graphs, it also is a huge help for me to be sure that my students are on track for meeting their goals. If you need help setting up your charts, here is a quick how to guide.

Progress Monitoring Graphs

Do you struggle with how to track IEP goal data? Who has time to complete data sheets and then graph by hand? Grab these digital IEP goal progress monitoring sheets. Just add in your dates and data to these templates. The graph will generate automatically with data labels and trend lines. This is a great visual to show progress to families. Graphs can be copied and added into Present Levels of an IEP. Make a copy of the entire sheet for each student and share with your team members so that everyone can add their data in one place!


This is by far my favorite progress monitoring tool! You can copy from the template over and over for new students each year. I have been using this for over 8 years now and it keeps my data looking so clean and organized! Parents love seeing the visual of their child’s growth over time. 


If you are interested in learning more about these graphs and the behavior charts, check out this guide.


If you found this post to be helpful, be sure to follow @LearningSupportLady on Instagram.


progress monitoring graph

Leave a Reply

More Blog Posts

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.

Grab your free guide 

5 Steps to Simplify 

Progress Monitoring