Monitoring your child’s progress is important anytime, but it is especially important now that the school year is half over. Reports from the school are not always very specific. Where is the child in relation to his/her peers, the grade level curriculum, his/her IEP goals?

The PRN website blog will be focusing on progress monitoring this month. We will be sharing articles and resources on grading and how to determine if your child is making progress towards IEP goals, a Section 504 plan, in RTI, and the general curriculum.  You are encouraged to leave comments and ask questions at the end of the articles.  Chuck Noe, our Education Specialist, will be answering questions and providing insight to help you determine if your child is making adequate progress and options to explore if your child is not making progress.

Parents of children with disabilities often ask, “How will I know my child is learning and making progress?” Parents can answer that question by first using their own observations and then by looking at a variety of data, including information from other sources.

Parent Observations

Most children in special education spend time in both special education and regular education classes. So, for example, if your child is receiving speech services, you would expect to see the child’s speech improve. If your child is learning to read in regular education classes, you would expect to see his or her reading ability improve.

You can observe whether your child has generalized a skill taught in school. This means that your child can use the skill in many environments, such as the home, community, and school. For example, is your child’s speech understandable at home and to the server in the restaurant? Can your child do the math worksheet on money and count the change received at the store? Can your child do this skill better than he or she could last year?

When parents have questions about progress, we advise them to look at daily work and other information, such as the teacher’s observations, special education sources, regular education sources, and information from outside the school.

Special Education Sources

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal special education law that emphasizes educational outcomes for students in special education. IDEA guidelines require that schools track educational progress for children with disabilities. Here are four of the best sources of information on progress:

(1) The results of a student’s most recent special education evaluation. Students who may have disabilities are evaluated before special education services can begin. This comprehensive evaluation looks at cognitive and behavioral factors, as well as physical and developmental factors in all areas of suspected disability. The initial evaluation provides a baseline for measuring progress and developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Once a child has an IEP, the school will reevaluate or review existing evaluation data at least once every three years. You can compare the most recent evaluation report with earlier reports to gauge your child’s progress. Parents have a right to obtain copies of evaluation summaries and to have the information explained to them.

(2) Measurable annual goals. Your child’s IEP must include measurable annual goals. For each goal area, the IEP must record your child’s beginning level of performance, either in a section on “present levels of academic achievement and functional performance” or in the goal statement. Each goal statement must outline the skills or behaviors to be changed, the direction of the desired change, and the expected ending level of performance. You will receive reports outlining your child’s progress toward meeting these goals.

(3) Progress reports. The IEP must identify how often your child’s progress toward annual goals will be measured and how you will be informed of the progress. Parents must be informed at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled child’s progress. In addition, periodic general education report cards, other written reports, and meetings are among the many ways parents can keep informed about their child’s progress. These sources of information help parents determine whether their child’s progress is sufficient to achieve the IEP’s goals within that IEP year.

(4) Annual IEP review. A new IEP is written annually for children in special education. The IEP must include a statement of the child’s present level of performance for each goal. Parents can compare this statement to the statement made the previous year. For example, how much has the child’s reading level advanced? How much has the child’s on-task behavior increased? How did the child perform on district and statewide assessments?

Regular Education Sources

Children with disabilities have the right to participate in the general curriculum—the curriculum used for all students—whenever appropriate. Parents can receive additional information on progress from regular education sources, such as:

(1) Classroom teacher information. If your child participates in a regular classroom for all or any part of a day, you can request to meet with the teacher if you are concerned or have questions about your child’s progress. You can also attend teacher’s conferences, open houses, and other typical school events for more information, observations, and feedback about your child’s progress. Daily work, test scores, and report cards can also provide valuable information.

(2) Districtwide assessments. Students have a right to participate in districtwide assessments as appropriate. Schools frequently use the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests, which compare the academic achievement of students across age or grade level. You can also use these tests to see if your child is making progress when the test is administered from year to year.

(3) Statewide assessments. Children with disabilities also have a right to be included in statewide assessment programs with appropriate accommodations when necessary. If the IEP team determines a child cannot participate in statewide testing, even with accommodations, the school must use an alternative assessment for the student. Statewide assessments are given in grades 3-8, 10 and 11.

Information from Outside the School

School isn’t the only source of information on a child’s educational progress. Independent evaluation and less formal observations can provide a fuller picture of a child’s progress.

Independent evaluation

Children can be assessed at non-school facilities, sometimes at the expense of the school district and sometimes at the family’s expense. In either case, independent evaluation results can be compared to previous testing and other progress indicators.

What if My Child is Not Making Progress?

If you think your child is not making meaningful educational progress, you can request a meeting to discuss revisions to the child’s IEP. The school cannot guarantee that a child will achieve the goals in the IEP; however, the school must make a “good faith effort” to assist the child to do so.

An IEP team meeting can be held to discuss and plan revisions to improve your child’s opportunity to make progress. Your child may need changes in:

  • Special education or related services
  • Assistive technology
  • Curriculum or method of instruction
  • Educational setting

If your IEP team cannot agree whether or not your child is making meaningful progress, additional evaluation may be needed. For more information on evaluation, see

PACER Center,