During a typical school year, educators collect an abundance of information to plan and deliver targeted instruction. This usually includes student attendance, classroom grades, and New Jersey Student Learning Assessment performance, as well as qualitative data such as parent reports and observational insights. For students receiving special education services, these pieces of information, along with diagnostic assessments and evaluations, are vital as educators monitor student progress toward Individualized Education Programs (IEP) goals, determine student placement, and provide highly targeted, individualized instruction and interventions.
As a result of the COVID-19 school closures, the practice of monitoring student progress has taken on greater importance for students with IEPs since their instruction and related therapy services (occupational, speech, etc.) have been disrupted by the pandemic. Understanding students’ present progress toward their IEP goals is crucial for teachers as they address academic and skill regression during the past year. However, COVID-19 has complicated the monitoring of student progress as teaching and learning are now happening in a new, virtual environment. District leaders, teachers, and child study teams have had to “think outside the box” to measure student learning, monitor student progress, and develop tools that are adaptable for a variety of learning settings.
As school and district leaders rise to these challenges, and teachers innovate and adapt their practices to the virtual classroom, consider the following suggestions to support virtual progress monitoring districtwide, schoolwide, and classroom-wide.
As a teacher or school district administrator, this means:
- Assess the ways you and your special education programs monitor student progress. Take inventory of your current data collection methods and tools and start with those that are easily transferable from in-person to virtual or hybrid learning environments. Apply and support data collection methods that are flexible and adaptable to meet the changing needs of teachers.
- Make information user friendly and easy to understand. With access to real-time data and easy-to-understand data visualizations, teachers are able to more effectively intervene and provide targeted instruction to students who are not progressing as they should. For example, charting student progress, along with trend lines and aim lines, will help teachers see when to adjust their instruction and allow families and students visibility into progress toward IEP goals.
- Analyze student information at both the individual student level and as a whole. Data should be analyzed in a manner that displays trends for individual students as well as by subgroup; teacher, school, and district level; and grade, gender, and student demographics. Through these lenses, systemic districtwide and schoolwide issues can be addressed through programming and curricular decisions.
As a parent, this means:
- Be an active partner in your child’s education. Keeping the lines of communication open between school and home will help both parties stay informed of how the student is performing.
- Stay informed on the virtual tools your child is using to receive their education. Be a connected partner with your child and their school to ensure the learning tools in use are accessible and that you are aware of how your child is being assessed and progress is monitored.
- Stay connected with your district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG). School districts throughout New Jersey have SEPAGs that are led by parents of children with IEPs. During these unusual times, stay connected and find support with parents of children with IEPs in your community.
As a school board member, this means:
- Listen to your community and have a direct line with your superintendent about special education matters. During these times, many board members are hearing from community members about the challenges of delivering special education during the pandemic. Stay informed about how your district is providing special education services so the board has accurate and consistent information.
- Serve as community ambassadors. When community members seek additional information about special education programming, refer them to both the superintendent and special education director, as well as the district’s SEPAG.
COVID-19 is forcing districts to rethink the way they serve students. These unusual times are necessitating that schools reimagine the traditional school experience and modify practices to support students in virtual or hybrid learning environments. For more best practices on virtual progress monitoring, read our recent blog post: “4 Best Practices for Progress Monitoring during Virtual Learning.”
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Public Consulting Group, Inc. (PCG) is a leading public sector solutions implementation and operations improvement firm that partners with health, education, and human services agencies to improve lives. Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, PCG has over 2,500 professionals in more than 50 offices worldwide. PCG offers education consulting services and technology solutions that help schools, school districts, and state education agencies/ministries of education to promote student success, improve programs and processes, and optimize financial resources. To learn more, visit www.publicconsultinggroup.com/education/.
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