Thursday, July 23, 2009

Breaking Down the IEP: How Progress Will Be Measured

A student's IEP goals must be clearly measurable and must address that student's unique needs arising from his / her disability. Goals are the central part of an IEP; they set standards for what the child will learn and achieve under the proposed program. Essential to a parents understanding of the child's progress and the appropriateness of the program, therefore, is how progress will be reported. The IDEA requires a statement within the written IEP document regarding this.

Specifically, the IDEA requires:

"a description of how the child's progress towards meeting the annual goals... will be measured and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided."
20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(1)(A)(III).

How will progress be measured?

This is closely related to the discussion of how goals should be written so that they are measurable. The starting place for determining how progress will be measured is within the goal itself - make sure it is clear what accuracy level the child will be expected to achieve to meet the goal; include a reliability indicator, such as 3 out of 4 trials, if appropriate, and make sure that the specific skills themselves are clear.

Determining "how" progress will be measured also involves deciding how information regarding progress will be gathered. Will there be specific data collection that indicates specifically how a child performed on the skill for each trial? Will classroom work samples be sufficient to track progress on a skill? Should the teacher utilize an assessment measure to indicate the child's achievement level to determine progress? The IEP team needs to consider how information will be collected, and make sure this is clear in the IEP. Although observational information may be useful for future IEP meetings, a subjective measurement of progress should be avoided as a sole indicator whenever possible.


Child's annual goal = read 50 new sight words from a 2nd grade high frequency word list with automaticity as measured by teacher collected samples

Progress measured by: teacher samples
Teacher indicates directly on list of high frequency words the words that student reads, and adds these up. The list itself is a record of student's progress.

Child's annual goal = remain on task for at least 10 minutes during a teacher-directed desktop assignment or activity, with no less than 2 verbal prompts in 3 out of 4 trials as measured by data collection charts.

Progress is measured by:
Data collection chart
Date: 06/12
Lesson: Math
Time on task: 6 minutes
prompts: 3

When will progress be reported?

The IEP document needs to specifically identify when "periodic reports on the progress" towards the child's annual goals will be produced and provided to parents. These periodic reports can be concurrent with the issuance of report cards, but should include specific information related to the child's specific goals. Because the IDEA now only requires short term objectives for students who are provided with alternative assessment measures, it may be difficult to quantify a child's progress towards the ultimate goal for the periodic report. If objectives are included in the IEP, the periodic report can tell parents whether or not the child has met the objective for that time period. If not, then information about how the child has progressed should still be made availalble.

Providing sufficient information within a periodic report of progress goes back to the goals itself being measurable. If the goal has a clearly measurable, objective standard that can be quantified or recorded in some way, then the child's current level on that same objective standard can be reported for a periodic report.


Child's annual goal = read 50 new sight words from a 2nd grade high frequency word list with automaticity as measured by teacher collected samples

Periodic Report for First Reporting Period

periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided

Relationship to Other Procedural Safeguards

School districts are obligated to revise a child's IEP as appropriate "to address any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals and in the general education curriculum, where appropriate." 20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(4)(A)(ii)(1). This means that if during the time period covered by an annual IEP, the student is not making expected progress, the District should convene the team to discuss whether adjustments to the goals or the program are required. It is important that the goals themselves are clearly measurable, and that there are reporting periods clearly identified for when progress will be reported, so that if the child is not making progress, the team, including parents, are aware of this. If the IEP does not clearly establish how and when progress will be measured, the team may not be aware until the next annual IEP that the child is not making adequate progress. This may cause a loss of educational benefit, in that the District thereby did not revise the IEP as appropriate to meet the child's needs and enable him/her to meet the annual goals.

Ultimately, an important purpose of making sure that the goals are measurable and that progress is reported periodically is to ensure meaningful parent participation in the process. Parents cannot fully participate in ongoing discussions regarding their child's program or annual IEP meetings if they do not know whether or not the child is making expected progress. If parents are fully informed regarding their child's progress, or lack thereof, under the special education program being provided, they are more able to understand the appropriateness of the program being offered, and to ask for additional services or supports when needed.


  1. The greater the frequency with which progress is monitored, the greater the likelihood that ineffective program can quickly be modified or changed. One research-based methodology for frequent or continuous monitoring is curriculum-based measuerment (CBM).

    Failure to frequently monitor progress often leads to stagnation, frustration, and resentment.

  2. When using observation as a measure is unavoidable, at least use the phrase "charted observation" so there is ongoing written documention of progress on the goal.

  3. It is extremly important to write IEP's that can be measured and charted to show progress. When progress on IEP's is able to be charted, there is no gray area or a sense of wonderment.

  4. I agree that measuring a child's progress toward achieving his/her goals (and in some states, like NJ, objectives) is important. When done well, it can help parents and schools to quickly identify and rectify learning problems and re-accelerate learning. Ongoing measurement, however, is often irrelevant and misleading because the IEP's goals and measurement (monitoring) procedures are irrelevant and vague. Sheila Alber-Morgan of Ohio State University has a free article on how to measure progress in reading (Monitoring your child's IEP: A focus on reading). Similarly, Learning Disabilities Worldwide ( has lots free information on monitoring a child's progress.

  5. If your looking for a fun way to teach sight words and basic phonics, try playing a board game called Er-u-di-tion!

    This award winning game helps children learn to read, spell and understand the most common words in the English language while playing an entertaining board game.

    Cards are categorized so children of all reading levels can play together!