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The Ultimate Guide to Progress Monitoring

Guides | 37 minutes

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.

SMART Goals for Progress Monitoring

The world of progress monitoring can be complex given the ever changing educational landscape. It requires the tracking of numerous variables including academic performance in subjects like reading and math, behavioral assessments, attendance records, and more. Because students are always growing and changing, and there is always new information coming in, it’s important to have a flexible and strong system to keep track of it all. This guide will give you an introduction to some of the countless progress monitoring tools and assessments, all through the lens of the SMARTER goal-setting method. Each step will use real-world progress monitoring examples and explanations to better equip you to effectively track student progress.

What are progress monitoring tools?

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:

  • Paper-based tracking
  • Spreadsheets
  • Single-Solution Software
  • All-In-One Software Solution

Paper-Based Tracking

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. The card is carried by the student from teacher to teacher throughout the day, and 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.


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.

The disadvantages of using a spreadsheet appear when it comes to scaling and sharing. 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 if they have to do it 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 the progress of several students. Data collection and sharing data are two big reasons to look for a universal solution all teachers can use.

Single-Solution Software

The next type of student progress monitoring tool is a specific software designed to solve one problem. Examples of single-solution 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 single-solution software, giving only partial insight into student progress. For this reason, many educators are looking for an all-in-one solution.

All-In-One Software Solution

An all-in-one solution like Otus gives educators a holistic picture of a student. Academic, behavioral, social-emotional, future readiness, and other types of data can all be factors in a student’s progress toward a goal. Progress monitoring plans in Otus can include just one, or all of these types of data. This gives all stakeholders a real-time 360-degree view of the student in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

Otus progress monitoring plans can be connected to any third-party assessment (NWEA, Renaissance, FastBridge, and more), so data is automatically updated as students participate in testing.

Educators can track progress on any goal, completely independent of class, teacher, and school year. This provides flexibility for both short-term and long-term plans that can span across academic years and involve a variety of stakeholders, from teachers and counselors to even the student and their family. Involving students and their families in progress monitoring creates a partnership between home and school that is critical to helping every student achieve their goals.

5 Examples of Progress Monitoring

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.

4 Main Components of RTI
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 lower than 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 classwide 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.

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.

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 supplemental 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.

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

The Multi-Tiered System of Supports, or MTSS, is a comprehensive framework designed to meet the diverse needs of students through a range of strategies and supports. It encompasses both academic and non-academic factors, making it broader in scope compared to RTI. The MTSS approach ensures that resources are allocated appropriately to support students effectively in their learning journey.

Universal Screening
In MTSS, universal screenings are typically conducted three times a year to identify students who may need additional support. These screenings cover both academic and non-academic areas.

  • Academic Screenings: Utilize tools such as Acadience, DIBELS, FastBridge, iReady, NWEA MAP Growth, mCLASS, Renaissance Star, and Istation to gauge students’ academic performance.
  • Behavioral Screenings: Use instruments like FAST’s SAEBRS to monitor and assess students’ behavioral patterns.

Platforms like Otus can house all of this data in one place. See a full list of third-party assessment options.

Frequent Progress Monitoring
MTSS requires the regular monitoring of student progress using valid and reliable tools and processes. This approach is district-wide and involves various stakeholders, including teachers, counselors, psychologists, and other specialists. It encourages a unified approach that addresses students’ academic, behavioral, social, and emotional needs, promoting holistic development. Moreover, it encourages family and student involvement to strengthen the home-to-school connection, fostering a collaborative effort in nurturing student growth.
Data-Driven Decisions
Under MTSS, data-driven decision-making is pivotal. It involves:

  • Establishing Teams: Form teams that are well-trained in both utilizing the specific assessments in place and interpreting the student data they produce.
  • Creating Agendas and Norms: Develop structured meeting agendas and norms to facilitate productive discussions, including guidelines such as starting and ending meetings on time, encouraging equal participation from members, and creating a safe space where every opinion is valued and respected.
  • Analyzing Progress and Data Patterns: Use clear and specific questions to understand students’ progress and identify trends, fostering a deeper understanding of student performance and needs.

Platforms like Otus can house all of your student data in one place so making data-driven decisions is easier than ever.

Major Differences Between RTI and MTSS

While both RTI and MTSS aim to support students, they differ significantly in their approach:

  • Scope: RTI primarily focuses on the academic needs of students, while MTSS adopts a broader approach, addressing both academic and non-academic needs, such as behavior and attendance.
  • Comprehensiveness: MTSS is more comprehensive compared to RTI, as it not only has the potential to incorporate the three-tiered approach of RTI but goes a step further to offer a more rounded support system for students. Beyond just focusing on academic support, MTSS also integrates resources and strategies to address students’ behavioral, social, and emotional needs, providing a holistic framework that nurtures well-rounded development. It considers a wide array of factors, including attendance, mental health, and family engagement, aiming to provide every student with the support they need to thrive both in the classroom and at home.

Through MTSS, educators can create a nurturing and supportive environment that caters to the diverse needs of all students, promoting not only academic success but also fostering social and emotional growth.

How Otus Supports RTI and MTSS

One of the most important aspects of RTI and MTSS 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, goals, and needs. On top of that, making sure other teachers and families have the information they need to support the student can also be difficult.

Otus’ progress monitoring tool streamlines both RTI and MTSS management. Educators can easily track universal screening and CBM scores over time, without ever needing to manually update student data within a plan. Since all of a school district’s third-party data can be housed in Otus, educators can connect a student’s progress monitoring plan to their data so scores automatically update as they participate in testing.

To streamline RTI and MTSS efforts, educators can create progress monitoring templates that can be assigned to groups of students and then customized as needed with the understanding that every student’s plan will not be the same due to their unique strengths and areas of opportunity. These plans can be made visible to students and families to further the home-to-school connection and ensure every stakeholder is on the same page regarding student progress.

Otus Plans in Student ProfileOtus enables educators to streamline how student progress and growth are tracked.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

Similar to RTI and MTSS, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) uses a 3-tier intervention framework. However, instead of focusing on academics, PBIS aims to establish a positive student culture that is necessary to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. 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.

PBIS Framework

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.

How Otus Supports PBIS

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 are also completely customizable so a student can have one goal or many goals, pending their needs. It takes no time at all to add one student or an entire group of students to a progress monitoring plan.

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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 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. 9th grade brings with it 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 some time exploring their interests and possible career options. This year should be spent learning about 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 additionally signing up for an ACT/SAT practice test.

Junior Year: Making a Plan

When a student becomes a junior in high school, it is important that they begin to hone in on a post-graduation plan. This involves making any final adjustments to their academic plan with their advisor, and assuring that they are set up to graduate. This can also be an excellent time to pursue leadership opportunities like student council or other roles that can 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 if for multiple attempts.

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.

How Otus Supports ILPs

One of the key features 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 ILP’s easy.

Otus Plans takes in both academic and behavioral data and follows the student throughout their educational journey. Plans create the opportunity for educators, students, and families 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.

Portrait of a Graduate

What is a portrait of a graduate?

A Portrait of a Graduate is a collective vision that outlines what a school community hopes for its students and a shared understanding of the specific skills they will need to achieve those goals. It’s a model that has been adopted by numerous states to ensure that students are prepared not just academically, but also holistically, for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

While many states are currently in the process of developing their portrait of a graduate, the following states have implemented graduate profiles: Washington, North Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, Utah, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii.

The importance of a Portrait of a Graduate lies in its focus on post-secondary outcomes. It goes beyond traditional metrics like graduation rates, emphasizing the broader skills and competencies students need to thrive in today’s world.

How to Create a Portrait of a Graduate

Developing a Portrait of a Graduate is a collaborative and thoughtful process that requires input from various stakeholders in the community. Here are the steps to create a Portrait of a Graduate that is both reflective of the school community’s values and adaptive to the ever changing demands of society:

  1. Form a Team: Begin by assembling a diverse group of stakeholders, including educators, families, students, and community members, who bring a variety of perspectives to the table.
  2. Engage in Dialogue: Encourage open discussions about the skills and attributes students need for success.
  3. Identify Skills and Attributes: Use the 4Cs – Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity – as a foundational starting point.
  4. Determine Indicators: Decide on the key indicators for your district’s Portrait of a Graduate. This could include standardized test scores like SAT, attendance, behavior, and more.
  5. Reflect on Current Society: Understand that future readiness varies for each student. Check that your district’s portrait resonates with the demands and opportunities of the present world.
  6. Visual Representation: Design a visual depiction of your Portrait of a Graduate to effectively communicate the vision to the community and students.

Implement Portrait of a Graduate

Once you’ve created your Portrait of a Graduate, the next step is to put it into action in your school district. This involves several key actions:

  • Scale and Track: Expand your Portrait of a Graduate across the district and monitor student progress toward the identified indicators.
  • Adopt a Readiness Platform: Schools should leverage a college and career readiness platform to more accurately track Portrait of a Graduate indicators. Using a reliable platform allows for precise monitoring of each student’s progress, helping educators to identify areas of both strength and opportunity. It makes it easier to gather and analyze data, ensuring the district’s plans are serving the students’ development and preparing them for success post-graduation.
  • Engage and Communicate: Regularly update students and families about progress. Their involvement is crucial in ensuring the success of a Portrait of a Graduate initiative. Keeping the lines of communication open not only fosters a sense of community and collaboration but also allows for timely interventions and adjustments based on observations and feedback from students and families.

Portrait of a Graduate with Otus

Use Otus to Support Your District’s Portrait of a Graduate

To adequately track college, career, and life readiness metrics, it is essential to align on a single system that all stakeholders can use to measure and track progress. Using a tool like Otus, school districts can tap into all the student data they already have and link it to their Portrait of a Graduate plans. Data from readiness indicators such as SAT, ACT, course performance, attendance, and behavior can all be integrated into the plan providing a holistic picture of every student.

Once systems are in place, many school districts choose to involve students and their families in the conversation. With Otus, any plan (including Portrait of a Graduate) can be made visible to students and families, strengthening the home-to-school connection. If appropriate, students and families can contribute to the plan and track progress made outside of the classroom side-by-side with the progress noted by educators. Involving students and families in this process creates a partnership that is critical to ensuring every student is future-ready.

Plans in Otus

Otus – the #1 tool for monitoring student progress

Otus provides a comprehensive platform that allows schools to integrate data from multiple sources, monitor student progress, implement tiered interventions, and communicate effectively with all stakeholders. By leveraging these features, schools can create a more effective and responsive RTI, MTSS, PBIS, ILP, or Portrait of a Graduate framework. These processes promote student success, address diverse needs, emphasize early intervention, and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Once implemented, schools can create more inclusive, equitable, and productive learning environments that support the holistic development of all students.