The AdvoKids team is passionate about improving IEP team communication. Every week we talk to parents and teachers who feel frustrated about some aspect of the IEP process. One common theme we see is a lack of detailed progress reporting. Often, a school team is doing a good job of implementing a student’s IEP, but the parent is not receiving clear information about how the child is doing on IEP goals. This lack of clear communication, not surprisingly, leaves the parent feeling confused, or worse, leads to an assumption that progress is not being made. These assumptions often cause a break-down in communication.
Sharing progress monitoring information with all team members can often mean the difference between a focused, successful IEP team and one in dispute. In a recent, excellent study, clearly explaining progress data is sighted as best practice for improving IEP meetings.
Yet, it often seems that teams lose sight of this important practice. So, we hope this brief overview of the progress monitoring requirements is a useful tool for IEP team members, educators and parents alike.
The Federal Requirements for progress monitoring
The IDEA 2004 regulations state that each child’s IEP must contain:
“A description of—
How the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals … will be measured; and (ii) 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…”
The federal law does not impose specific requirements on exactly how progress monitoring reports are issued. Yet, numerous court cases reinforce the principle that data-based progress monitoring is required under the IDEA; otherwise, it’s impossible to tell if a student is actually making the required “meaningful progress.” See e.g. Endrew F. V. Douglas County School District, 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017).
New Jersey regulations
New Jersey’s special education regulations clarify the IDEA’s requirement for progress reporting. They require:
“A statement of how the student’s parents will be regularly informed of their student’s progress toward the annual goals, and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the student to achieve the goals by the end of the year.
The parents of a student with a disability shall be informed of the progress of their child at least as often as parents of a non-disabled student are informed of their child’s progress…” 6A:14-3.7(e).
So, based on the regulations, IEP goal progress should be shared at least as often as a school report card. Many New Jersey administrative due process hearing decisions include detailed discussions of the level of progress monitoring and reporting required to show that a student is making meaningful progress. In just one example, J.W. and M.W. OBO A.W. v. Medford Lake Borough of Education (decided August 23, 2019), the Administrative Law Judge references the numerous ways the school district measured and reported the student’s progress. The decision makes clear that the District conducted on-going assessments of the student’s progress for all IEP goals and objectives using research-based tools (such as the MAP, DRA, and other curriculum-based assessments). The School District maintained progress monitoring data on the student’s skill levels for component skills in reading (phonics, reading fluency, comprehension, decoding and encoding), writing (the district had data on the student’s ability to utilize needed tools to organize and edit writing, as well as grade level use of conventions and word choice), among other data about functional skills (anxiety and behavior). The District’s on-going progress monitoring data, combined with its on-going adjustments to instruction based on that data, informed the Judge’s finding that the District provided an appropriate program.
If you are a member of an IEP team that is struggling to agree on a child’s needs when was the last time you met to review and discuss the child’s goals? Are the goals SMART? Is the team using consistent, reliable, research-based methods of assessing the progress that measures the student against him or herself? Is the progress monitoring specific and based on the precise IEP goals, rather than “progressing,” “satisfactory,” or “not introduced”? If you are a parent who is confused about whether your child is making progress, have you considered requesting a meeting with your school district about how your child’s progress is being monitored and measured? A lack of progress reporting need not be the trigger for a dispute; but, perhaps it should trigger a focused IEP team discussion about a student’s current IEP goals and how progress is being assessed.
The Advo-Kids team can assist your family or school district with IEP review and IEP team communication. Call us today for a free, initial consultation. We welcome your questions, concerns or feedback about this topic! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.