Jared's Blog: So, How's it Going?



When we look to progress-monitor our students, "how's it going?" is the question that we are constantly asking ourselves. Is what we are doing having a positive effect on student progress? Are we making a difference? Are we closing the achievement gap?


In looking at progress monitoring and assessments, there was a great comment on a previous blog about our assessment team not having a regular education teacher on it. I should probably explain that the assessment team gathers data and puts it into a form that is useful. Then, when making a decision based on this data, yes the classroom teacher is involved. You will see later in this blog that we have grade level meetings that involve the classroom teacher. The assessment team also gathers data from the classroom by collecting the teacher’s observations as well as using any classroom assessment data that the classroom teacher may have to offer. The comment made a great point in that RTI is a regular education issue and not just another means to get a student in special education. In looking at some data, in Wyoming about 39% of all identified special education students are qualified with a learning disability while only 20% of our identified students are qualified with a learning disability. This shows that we are using RTI as a general education initiative and have been able to help many of our students with interventions provided through general education setting. Many of our students are receiving interventions through general education that allow them to be successful without having to be referred to special education. So we have taken the initiative and have dealt and will continue to deal with most of our learning difficulties in the regular education setting through the use of RTI.

 

I would like to point out that progress monitoring is the one area that we really need to improve on. We have run into a few problems this year in trying to determine if our interventions were being successful or not. I would suggest that you have a thorough and systematic approach to progress monitor students. You should know exactly what assessments you are going to use and when you are going to give these assessments. We did not have this very clearly defined and so we were questioning the validity and reliability of our assessment data. I would also recommend that you set up a protocol for when an intervention is not working. What are the steps that you will take when you are not seeing the improvement that you need to see? We are having this very discussion right now amongst our staff. We want to clearly define what steps we are going to take when we see that an intervention is not working, but we must also have a better system in place that can give us better data to make this determination. We are looking at putting a few other very brief assessments in place to help us monitor students in a more consistent and systematic way.


So with that being said, this is how we progress-monitor our students: We do this in two ways as we look at the results to determine if an intervention is being successful and also by looking at our skill groups. We currently monitor about once week for those students that are in Tier 3 and about twice a month for those that are in Tier 2. We mostly use DIBELS to monitor students but have also started to use our MAP data to give us another set of data points. I have seen in the research where they suggest monitoring students who are in Tier 3 more often; as often as twice a week. The reason for this is that is gives you trend data quicker to help you make a decision sooner as to whether the intervention is being successful or not. We are currently looking into monitoring tools that will give us this data. We want to ensure that these monitoring tools are quick and simple yet give us the reliable and valid data we need. We have to be careful though not to overburden our students with assessments; remember fattening the cow, you can’t expect it to gain weight if you are always weighing it!

 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we skill group our student to meet their individual needs. We look to change our groupings on a monthly basis. We meet once a month as a grade level team and look at the data to see if students are grouped correctly. We use our DIBELS data, MAP data and well as classroom data to determine if students who are working on the same skills are still grouped correctly. We will change groups or change the focus of a group depending on what the data tells us. By focus I mean we may have grouped these students together to work on phonemic awareness or grouped students to work on fluency, etc... These groups are by no means set in stone and we will change groups sooner if necessary. Our groups are very fluid and we are not going to keep a student in a group for a whole month if the student’s needs are not being met in this group. The focus of the group can also change if the teacher sees fit.

 

We continue to work on our progress monitoring as this is the one area that we had not completely thought through in advance and it has shown. Please do the research and take the steps necessary to ensure that you have a solid progress monitoring system in place. The leg work up front can save you some of the confusion and headaches that we have run into.

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