Preparing for a Progress Monitoring Review Process

Engaging in Reflection for Productive Decision Making

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    One of the most powerful practices included in an RtI framework is using data to guide decision making. During early stages of RtI planning and implementation, teams are making decisions about what tools will be used for progress monitoring, how frequently progress will be monitored, what decision rules will be used to prompt when changes may be warranted,· when will these data discussions take place, and who will be involved.· Make no mistake, these decisions usually require a significant amount of time and spirited discussion to arrive at consensus for district or building level teams.· Once made, actually launching the data teams and using the decision rules are important milestones in the RtI journey. I emphasize” important milestones” because, to me, they are initial steps in the process and require the group to engage in reflection on the process so it can be properly matured over time.· This is where many of the teams I work with are in the process and, for this blog, I want to share what realizations we are coming to as we work to make the process more efficient and effective.
    Our discussions have focused on how to properly prepare for a progress monitoring review. The key components we find ourselves discussing include:

    1. Clear Purpose

    We find that revisiting the purpose of the review process is essential. The purpose of the review process is to determine whether or not to change something about what we are doing during core instruction and intervention in order to better meet the student’s needs. While we have team norms, this mantra needs to be repeated in order to “undo” decades of our spoken or unspoken purpose being that we determine whether the data suggest that we go to an initial evaluation, or whether the student continues to “need help” from the reading or math specialist.

    2. Understand Student Strengths and Needs

    The general education teacher is the student’s primary teacher. As such, we need to ensure they are comfortable and confident leading the discussion regarding each student’s specific strengths and need areas. For example, in reading, it is important that they understand which big ideas are strengths and which are need areas. This sounds very straightforward, but even my very veteran and strong teaching colleagues have indicated that thinking about reading by the big ideas was not emphasized in their preservice programs and usually is not provided adequate coverage in staff development beyond the knowledge level.

    3. Clear Articulation of Intervention Match to Need

    Using screening data and a validation process to determine who may warrant additional support has been an easy transition for most all teams I work with. The more challenging component has been for the team to clearly understand and be able to match or create an intervention to the student’s specific need. While reading and math specialists may feel comfortable with this process, it is important that the child’s classroom teacher understand both the match of intervention and the scope of skills that will be covered.

    4. Reflection on Student Progress Monitoring Data

    While a first step for a team is to be able to accurately describe student progress monitoring data in terms of level and slope of performance, the next step is to use this summary as a springboard to the reflections on the student’s performance in the core curriculum and during intervention time. We are finding that “on the spot” reflections are not sufficient to engage in problem solving when a change is warranted, so we are working to provide a reflection guide in advance. We anticipate that the advance reflection will allow for (1) more meaningful problem solving and (2) curtail the “quick fixes” that I find us going to – “add x number of minutes of sight word review,” “add fluency opportunities.” It isn’t that these may not be appropriate, but for students experiencing the most significant time learning to read, I’m not sure we have really created the most thoughtful change.

    Given what I’ve been sharing, we’ve created a “story script” that we’ve been using to guide each of us through the process. We created this because we find that a team of 6 people will have six different ways to “share the story.” This makes it inefficient for a team to wrap their head around the details of the student. (For those of you who have had Ruby Payne training, showing the “Did you hear about Jack” video is a fun way to emphasize how difficult it can be to follow people’s stories). The script, therefore, allows us to practice articulating all the essentials to ensure we have a collective understanding. One way to practice this is to have teachers rotate being the facilitator so they are also in the position of listening for the essentials and checking for understanding. In my next blog, I’ll share two case studies of how this has resulted in problem solving.
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