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The Ultimate Guide to Progress Monitoring (2023)

This is the ultimate guide to student progress monitoring for the 2021-2022 school year.

If you are new to progress monitoring, this guide will get serve as a great introduction to basic concepts and vocabulary.

And if you are a progress monitoring pro? This guide will give you helpful progress monitoring resources to help you reach the next level.

Tracking Student Growth with an LMS

What is Progress Monitoring?

Progress Monitoring is the process of frequently and consistently evaluating student performance data to ensure there is progress toward a predetermined goal. These frequent observations inform instructional decisions and can signal if a student needs additional support.

How Does Progress Monitoring Work?

Effective progress monitoring follows the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting process (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). This method can describe how best to implement any progress monitoring initiative, from frameworks like RTI and PBIS to state, district, or classroom level initiatives.

The world of progress monitoring can be incredibly chaotic and confusing. This guide will give you an introduction to some of the countless progress monitoring terms, tools, and assessments.

4 Types of Progress Monitoring Tools

There are many tools that can help educators track student progress. This section will explain the pros and cons to different tools and methods.

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Progress monitoring tools provide insight into the overall success of a student over time. They use data to help educators identify which students are on track to reach their goals and which students might need additional support.

While there are countless tools available to monitor student progress, many of them fall into 4 main categories:

  1. Pen & Paper
  2. Spreadsheets
  3. Narrow Software
  4. Comprehensive & Collaborative Solutions

Each category comes with advantages and disadvantages, as discussed below.

1. Pen & Paper

The pen and paper approach is the easiest way to start progress monitoring. In the long term, however, this method comes with many issues.

Take the example of a Check-in/Check-out card often used in behavior interventions like PBIS or MTSS. The card is carried by the student from teacher to teacher throughout the day, then taken home. This card can easily be torn, lost, or eaten by a dog. The valuable information stored on these cards can easily and quickly be lost in no time.

Another example of the pen and paper approach to progress monitoring is when a teacher writes down that they noticed a student struggling during a lesson. Without a digital system in place, this note is a floating data point that is difficult to track over time and completely invisible to other teachers or parents.

Ultimately, the pen and paper approach is great for jotting down notes but should be accompanied by a formalized digital system that can organize, track, and share this information.

 2. Spreadsheets

The next tool often used in progress monitoring is the age-old spreadsheet. A spreadsheet is a big improvement from a pen and paper but still has some drawbacks. One of the primary benefits of a spreadsheet is digitization. No more lost sticky notes or searching through stacks of paper for assessment scores. You can even make graphs depending on how fancy you want to get. Spreadsheets are almost infinitely customizable.

Scaling and sharing are where the disadvantages of spreadsheets appear. One teacher using a spreadsheet for a student may work, but it becomes difficult when multiple teachers need to add information. Consider a student on a behavior intervention plan where all incidents need to be tracked in one place. This is extremely difficult for multiple teachers to manage for one student, let alone for several students. Trying to share this data with parents or future teachers can also be painful.

While spreadsheets are a step in the right direction, they can be overwhelming when monitoring progress for several students. Data collection and sharing data are two big reasons to look for a universal solution all teachers can use.

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    3. Narrow Software

    The next type of student progress monitoring tool is a specific software designed to solve one problem. Examples of narrow software would be a program that tracks math CBM scores or a social-emotional student check-in software. These programs are excellent for allowing teachers to access consistent, high-quality data. However, this often comes at the cost of that data existing in a silo. Student data often remains fragmented in different systems.

    Student progress doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and other relevant data can often live in narrow software, giving only partial insight into student progress. For this reason, many educators are looking for an all-in-one progress monitoring solution.

    4. Comprehensive & Collaborative Solution

    A comprehensive & collaborative progress monitoring solution like Otus gives educators a full picture of a student. Academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and other types of data can all be factors in a student’s progress towards a goal. Progress monitoring in a comprehensive solution can include just one, or all of these types of data. This gives teachers and parents a real-time 360-degree view of the student in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

    In Otus Plans, progress monitoring plans can be attached to the student apart from a specific class. This provides flexibility for both short-term and long-term plans that can even span across academic years.

    3 Examples of Progress Monitoring

    There are a few different types of progress monitoring.

    This section covers examples of progress monitoring and how they are used in the classroom.

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    Response to Intervention (RTI)

    RTI is a framework that specifically focuses on the early identification of students with learning needs, primarily within the context of reading and math. Success within the RTI framework looks like providing extra assistance to students so that they can keep pace with their peer group. This is accomplished through a system of tiered interventions based on academic needs.

    A pyramid showing the 3 tiers of response to intervention (RTI) support. Tier 1 at the bottom of the pyramid is universal instruction. Tier 2 in the middle of the pyramid is targeted intervention. Tier 3 at the top of the pyramid is intensive interventions and comprehensive evaluation.
    The RTI framework often uses Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) to monitor the progress of a student. These assessments are typically administered on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. An example of this might be testing how many words per minute a student can read correctly. Each observation is tracked and then charted to show a student’s progress over time. The student’s trend line is compared with a goal-line to determine if they need additional support.

    RTI is composed of 3 tiers of intervention that strive to make the academic goals attainable for all students. The first tier supports all students with high-quality, research-based instruction. If the student’s trend line begins to trend below the goal, they are moved to tier 2. This is referred to as “Targeted Intervention” and utilizes a small group setting in addition to the class-wide instruction. If the student still does not show improvement, they are then moved to tier 3. Tier 3 is known as “Intensive Interventions and Comprehensive Evaluation” and is where a student is evaluated for special education services.


    Each tier of the RTI pyramid has a time-bound element to it. In tier 1, if a student is identified as at-risk, they are given supplement instruction for no longer than eight weeks. In tier 2, students are given supplemental instruction, and the length of time spent in this tier should not exceed one grading period. When it comes to tier 3, individual decisions need to be made on a per-student basis.

    RTI and Otus

    One of the most important aspects of RTI is accurately tracking and monitoring student progress. This can also be the most challenging and time-consuming aspect, especially in tiers 2 and 3 when groups of students have different intervention plans. On top of that, making sure other teachers and parents have the information they need to support the student can also be difficult.


    Otus’s progress monitoring tool makes RTI simple to manage. Educators can easily track CBM scores over time, create progress monitoring templates, and group students by performance. You can create customizable intervention plans for students and share student progress with other teachers and families so everyone is on the same page.



    Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

    Similar to RTI, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) uses a 3-tier intervention framework. However, instead of focusing on academics, PBIS supports students with behavioral problems. This system of support defines success as a student’s behavior aligning with the school’s clearly expressed behavioral expectations.

    A pyramid showing the 3 tiers of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). Tier 1 at the bottom of the pyramid is universal prevention. Tier 2 in the middle of the pyramid is targeted prevention. Tier 3 at the top of the pyramid is intensive, individualized prevention.

    For all 3 tiers, data is constantly being collected around student behavior. In tier 1, student behavior issues are collected and summarized. A decision-making team will then review the student data and determine if students need additional support. In tier 2 of the PBIS framework, data is collected more frequently and usually with tools like a Check and Connect or a Check-in/Check-out card. These interventions increase the frequency of contact a student has with teachers and help with more closely monitoring student behavior. If secondary support is not successful, tier 3 involves a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). An FBA digs deeper into environmental factors that might be causing behavioral problems. This data is combined with academic data and other information to create a personalized support plan for that student. 

    The goal of the PBIS framework is to help students attain the desired school behavior. With each tier comes additional support to set the student up for success. A crucial piece of this system to help with attainability is clear behavior expectations. Explicit communication and praising students when they demonstrate positive examples of desired behavior can provide clarity around these expectations.

    PBIS has been widely researched, so there are several studies we can look at. For purposes of this summary, we will look at a 2008 New Hampshire study. This study looked at 28 schools that implemented PBIS and measured the effects the framework had on the schools. The result was 1,032 fewer suspensions and 6,010 fewer office discipline referrals. Looking at this study, we can determine that PBIS is, in fact, relevant to improving student behavior.

    Since PBIS is unique to the specific behavior goals of each school, the time-bound nature of the framework can be different for each school. The wide variety of tier 2 interventions also requires varying lengths of time depending on the specific circumstances. The lack of strict guidance does not mean that it is not important to set target dates for each goal, rather it needs to be managed on a school or student level.

    The PBIS framework relies heavily on frequent communication amongst teachers. In the case of intervention, there must be consistent communication with parents, too. The frequency and accuracy of communication when you have a large student population can seem like too much to handle. Then, when you consider check-in/check-out cards constantly getting lost or needing to manage other interventions, you realize that spreadsheets and loose pieces of paper just don’t cut it.

    Otus’s flexible progress monitoring tool solves these exact problems. Both educators and families have real-time access to a student’s plan, making communication a lot easier. Otus Plans also allows completely customized templates. Whether you’re adding one student or many, applying a specific progress monitoring plan only takes a few clicks.


    Individual Learning Plan (ILP)

    While the specifics of individual learning plans (ILP) can vary by state, they generally focus on setting students up for post-high school success. An ILP would define success as a student graduating with everything they need to make an easy transition to further education or a career. These plans place a focus on career research, planning, job shadowing, and even mentoring.

    While each state differs in requirements and implementation, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) breaks down a general ILP into 4 steps that follow the 4 years of high school education.

    Freshman Year: Warm Up
    In the ILP checklist provided by the DOL, freshman year is meant to be a time of acclimation. Ninth grade brings a lot of changes, so the focus of the year should be on making connections. Two important connections to make are with an academic advisor and with a peer mentor. The academic advisor should help create a 4-year plan that includes the requirements to graduate, possible job or career goals, and any accommodations that a student might need. The peer mentor can help with connecting a student to other students and teaching valuable learning strategies.

    Sophomore Year: Exploring Options
    Once a student is acclimated to high school, they should spend time exploring their interests and possible career options. Sophomore year should be spent learning what possibilities are out there and then diving deep into a few of them. This can take the form of job shadowing, informational interviews, or volunteering. If the student is interested in college, this year would also be a good time to start researching majors and signing up for an ACT/SAT practice test.

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      Junior Year: Making a Plan
      When a student becomes a junior in high school, they must begin to hone in on a post-graduation plan. This involves making any final adjustments to their academic plan with their advisor to confirm they are set up to graduate. This can also be an excellent time to pursue leadership opportunities like student council or other roles that allow for the development of soft skills. Finding an adult mentor at this time can serve as a valuable resource for a student to get an outside perspective and advice on their goals. Additionally, it is crucial to sign up for the SAT/ACT to provide the necessary time for multiple attempts, if needed.

      Senior Year: Taking Action
      After 3 years of careful planning and preparation, this final year is all about execution. For those heading off to college, senior year is a whirlwind full of standardized tests, college applications, scholarships, loans, and interviews. If the student is planning to join the workforce, there can be job applications, apprenticeships, or applications for trade schools. Regardless of career path, senior year is a time to finish strong in academics to assure graduation, and can additionally serve as a great time to focus on other life skills. Skills such as budgeting and building a credit score will serve the student well in the years to come.

      ILPs and Otus
      One key feature of an individual learning plan is that it spans multiple years and is broad in academic and behavioral reach. This type of highly customized multi-year plan can be difficult to manage, especially with so many stakeholders. However, Otus makes creating and managing ILPs easy.

      Otus Plans takes in both academic and behavioral data and follows the student throughout their educational journey. Plans creates the opportunity for educators, students, and parents to all see the same data in real-time. With the ability to create and customize templates, educators easily add many students to the same plan or create a completely individualized plan for a student. If your school is interested in implementing or rethinking ILP’s, request a personalized demo to see what’s possible.


      Popular Progress Monitoring Assessments

      There are many different types of progress monitoring assessments.

      This section will give a brief overview of a couple popular ones.

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      Curriculum-Based Measure (CBM)

      Originally introduced in the 1970s, CBMs have a long history in education and have been rigorously researched over the years. For this reason, they are widely used by schools to measure the progress of student development over time in reading, writing, and mathematics. CBMs tend to be 1 to 5-minute assessments that span multiple topics and concepts. Each assessment is then added as a data point to a chart that shows progress over time. This can serve as a way for educators to adjust teaching styles and methods and additionally can help identify students that need additional attention.


      Computer Adaptive Tests

      With the advent of personal computers, more statistically complex ways of measuring student progress emerged. Computer adaptive tests use item response theory (IRT) to dynamically deliver questions to students based on previous answers. For example, if a student answers a question correctly, the test will continue to increase the difficulty of the questions until the student gets one wrong. One of the benefits of computer-adaptive tests is that the test can more accurately assess the student in far fewer questions than a standard test.


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