Data collection is mandatory for tracking behaviors and skills to understand and monitor the progress of a student. Progress monitoring is a scientifically based practice used to assess a child’s academic progress on IEP goals and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring tells the teacher or service provider what a child has learned and what still needs to be taught. IDEA 2004 states that a student’s IEP must contain a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured and that periodic reports be provided.

State and local education agencies continue to use a variety of strategies to monitor, track, and report progress on IEP goals. Some have clearly delineated procedures to guide data processes and others do not. Teachers continue to struggle with the lack of guidance, support, tools, and resources readily available to incorporate progress monitoring and to simplify the data collection necessary to measure and report progress on their students’ annual IEP goals.

Parents have a right to request a copy of the data for their child. However, it is not uncommon for the IEP team to resist provision of data collection. Most often, this is because most educators and service providers don’t take regular or consistent data of progress on goals. Typically, educators will conduct an informal assessment right before an IEP meeting to come up with information for the IEP meeting for progress on goals report. This is absolutely not acceptable, but it happens all the time.

If the child has behavior issues, data collection is mandatory for measuring progress and tracking the effectiveness of a Behavior Support Plan. Again, it is very common for providers to fail to take adequate consistent ABA data collection.

The behavior and skills of the child should match the data. If these two don’t match, data is not being tracked regularly or scored properly. All data should be scored and analyzed, otherwise it’s useless information. The data should be quite apparent in showing what the student’s progress is and very easy to understand. It is the provider’s job to schedule consistent time to review and analyze the data. The data should be used to make intervention changes. There is no point in taking data if the provider is not changing the environment and other factors to reflect the data and behavior.

No matter what kind of goal, the provider should start with Assessment, a crucial step for getting baseline data to understand a child’s deficits and learn about other problem areas. To simplify data collection, the service provider might use a One-Page Assessment that takes a wide scope of skills and breaks it into chunks for easy data collection.

Parents can record at least 2 videos of your child to provide more information. These videos should demonstrate a couple of minutes of your child doing a skill and a few minutes of teaching or parent interaction when working with the child. It is also helpful for parents to include a video of a specific medical or behavior problem you are concerned about.

ABC Data – Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence

These three words give context and explanation to incidents that can help with addressing problem behavior.

Antecedent: What was happening when the behavior occurred?
Behavior: What was the behavior? i.e., throwing, hitting, scratching, biting, headbanging, eloping, etc.
Consequence: What happened next? How was the behavior resolved and what consequence was applied? How did the incident end? The consequence should always be based upon positive behavior intervention. Consequences should never be punitive or result in punishment of the child.

Behavior Data can be taken by using a physical calendar and color-coded pens to notate changes in behavior or incidents for behavior-related problems. This will allow the provider to track patterns of behavior over a period of time. The provider should track the amount of a behavior and is typically done by tally marks or checklists.

Behaviors should be tracked by minor or major incidents at specific intervals. Major incidents should include detailed information regarding the antecedent, behavior and consequence. This can alert if there are certain times of the day or activities that trigger more or less of a specific behavior.

In a nutshell, parents need meaningful data to know if the child is making progress toward their goals. Data is collected to monitor IEP progress but also taken to tell us when progress isn’t happening. Timely data tells us if a student is struggling so changes can be made if necessary.

And data collection serves as a source of reinforcement for teachers and therapists. It should tell them when a student is progressing. It also serves to tell the IEP team that the IEP supports and services are being implemented and are appropriate for this child.

Federal law requires your IEP team to take data on your child’s progress on goals. It is a parents’ right to receive a copy of the data collection. If your team is not taking data, they are guessing about the progress your child is making. Data is not a teacher’s opinion or verbal report on how your child is progressing. Data collection is factual data that can be coupled with work samples and/or informal assessments, tests, and quizzes. If the team has no factual evidence that your child is making progress, there is no accurate way for you to really know if your child is truly receiving educational benefit from their special education program.

Here’s to your advocacy success,

Valerie Aprahamian


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