By: Theodore J. Christ, Ph.D., and Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP
Progress monitoring (PM) is an important part of a multi-tier system of student support (MTSS). Together with universal benchmark screening, progress data provide information about how well instruction is meeting each student’s needs. This blog will review different pathways for setting up PM in FAST™, as well as how to evaluate student progress and adjust instruction.
Setting Up Progress Monitoring
FAST™ has three different pathways for setting up progress monitoring schedules: (a) let the FAST™ system set up PM, (b) have FAST™ tell you what to do, or (c) do it yourself. These options are designed to support teachers as they become more familiar and comfortable with FAST™ and how PM works to improve student outcomes.
Let FAST™ do it for me. This is the fastest and easiest way to set up PM in FAST™. In order to use this option, certain specific FAST™ options and features must be activated and used including the FASTreading and/or FASTmath tools as well as the Screening to Intervention Report. FASTreading and FASTmath are organizational tools that pull together links for all of the assessments that a teacher might need to use with his or her current students. In order to use these tools, the FAST™ District Manager must activate them. Once activated, teachers will be able to screen their students with successively more specific assessments in order to identify intervention and progress monitoring needs. A key feature of FASTreading and FASTmath is an easy pathway for using two complementary assessments with students so that the best instruction or intervention can be quickly identified. For example, the FASTreading screen has links for screening students with both aReading and CBMreading. Together, these two reading assessments provide detailed information about what instruction each student needs. For more information about FASTreading and FASTmath see the FAST Insights blog on this topic.
The benefit of using FASTreading and FASTmath to conduct screenings is that these tools will enter the students’ scores into the FAST™ Screening to Intervention Report. This report is in Lab phase during the 2016–17 school year and provides precise intervention recommendations for individual students. Here is an example of a Screening to Intervention Report:
Through a combination of aReading and CBMreading data, this report indicates if the student needs instruction in reading accuracy, automaticity or broad reading. It also suggests what tier of instruction matches each student’s data, what PM to use, and what existing PM groups the student could join.
Have FAST™ tell me what to do. A second option for setting up PM is to have FAST™ walk the teacher through the PM steps but let the teacher do the actual set up. The starting point for this method is to review the suggested PM tools for each grade and skill area in FAST™. These recommendations for PM are based on research about what assessments most accurately reflect a student’s learning growth over time. Below are the recommended measures for reading and math:
|Measure||Weekly Goal||Measure||Weekly Goal|
|Letter Sounds||3||Numeral ID||1.25|
Concepts & Applications (CAP)
*CBMmath Process is skill specific so does not have one default weekly goal.
In addition to knowing which FAST™ measure to use, it is important to know how much a student should be expected to improve each week and what the end of year (EOY) goal is. The above table shows the recommended (default) weekly goals for each of the suggested FAST™ progress monitoring tools in reading and math. Note that the above weekly goals are considered realistic for any student who is behind and needs to catch up to peers. However, for students who are significantly behind, higher weekly goals are needed in order for them to make catch up growth. The above suggestions are general and might not apply for all students. It is important to make sure that the progress assessment measures the exact skill being taught. In general there are two types of progress measures: (a) general outcome measures (GOM), and (b) single skill measures (SSM). In addition to knowing the measures and goals, teachers will need to know the steps to set up a PM schedule. These details are in the following section about how to set up PM on your own, without guidance from the FAST™ system.
I will do it myself. All FAST™ users always have the option to set up a student’s PM schedule on their own and without specific system supports. In order to do this, the teacher will need to know what PM is best and what an appropriate goal is.
To initiate a PM schedule, click on the Progress Monitoring menu on the left side of the FAST™ screen. This will open that menu and you will then click on Create PM Group. This will open a new screen where you will select the student(s). Note that you can add more than one student to a PM group at a time. In the PM setup screen you will enter the details about the group, including the measure, frequency, weekly goal amount, and intervention details.
The intervention details will appear on the progress report only if they are entered in the PM schedule. For more details about how to set up a PM schedule, see and complete the training unit titled “Progress Monitoring” in the Training section within FAST™.
Understanding Progress Data
The second key skill needed to use the FAST™ PM system is how to understand the data. The important components of understanding PM data are to know:
- How many data points are needed
- How often to look at data
- What information is on the progress graph
- How to understand the graph
The primary document that is used to evaluate student progress is the FAST™ Progress Monitoring report. This report is found in the Reports Manager section of FAST™ but can also be seen by clicking on the link at the top of any PM schedule screen.
How many data points are needed? Although it’s possible to begin to review data with as few as three data points, most of the time, three scores are not enough for the information to be reliable. Research indicates that it usually takes about 10 data points for GOM and six data points for an SSM for a series to be reliable and interpretable. Keep in mind that it is normal for student scores to vary from week to week, and such scores rarely go in a straight line. Nonetheless, the more variable the scores, the more data points are needed to ensure that the scores are reliable.
How often to look at data. n order for PM data to be useful, it must be reviewed. FastBridge Learning recommends that teachers review student progress data every six weeks. Much of the time, no changes will be made to an intervention each time the data are reviewed. Nonetheless, it is important to look at the data regularly so that changes to interventions can happen as soon as a the data indicate the necessity. In other words, regular review ensures that teachers know which students are making effective progress and which ones need other assistance.
What information is on the graph? An example of a progress graph in FAST™ is shown below:
All progress graphs are set up so that the student’s score on the measure is along the Y (vertical) axis and the dates when monitoring happened are on the X (horizontal axis). Each data point represents one administration of the measure. The data points start out in blue, but if a student changes groups, will display in other colors. There will be a dashed line that is the student’s goal and a solid line that shows the trend of the student’s data over time. If the intervention details have been entered into the FAST system, the name of the intervention will appear along a vertical line indicating the start of the intervention.
How to understand the graph. The example to the left shows a student’s scores on CBMreading for September and October. This measure records student progress according to the number of words read correctly (WRC) per minute. The goal line goes out to the end of the school year. The trend line suggests that the student is improving and on track to meet the goal. The intervention line indicates that the student is participating in an intervention named “Repeated Reading”. The above graph indicates that the student is making adequate progress toward the goal. In other situations, the graph might look like the one below.
By looking at this graph (left) we can see that the trend of the student’s data (solid blue line) is well below the goal line and not improving. There are 10 data points and there is limited variability in the scores. A graph like this one indicates that something needs to change in order for the student to make gains. Even with fewer than 10 data points, this graph suggests that the student needs help. As a rule, if a student has three or more data points below a goal line, a change should be considered.
Before changing the intervention, it is important to consider if other factors could explain why the student is not making progress. These factors include:
- Has the intervention been implemented correctly (i.e., integrity)
- Is the frequency and duration of the intervention adequate (i.e., dosage)
- Is the intervention addressing the right skills?
- Is the goal too ambitious?
With answers to the above, the appropriate change in the student’s instruction can be made. When an intervention has not been implemented correctly, then resources should be devoted to accurate use. If the frequency or duration are not enough, these should be increased. If the intervention is addressing the wrong skills, a change in the focus should be made. A change to the goal should happen only if the above changes do not work.
Whenever a change is made in the intervention, this should be noted in the PM schedule so that it will show on the graph and report. Such information is very important for the student’s future teachers who will want to know what steps were taken to assist the student. Importantly, the FAST™ PM system is designed so that students should not need to switch groups very often. Instead, the changes to intervention should be noted in the record.
The FAST™ progress monitoring tools are designed to help teachers create and use data to monitor student progress. The system has features that will identify the right intervention, progress measure, and group if desired. Teachers can also use FAST™ to identify possible measures and select one themselves or to set up PM schedules on their own. In order to help students who are behind catch up, teachers can set realistic goals and implement interventions carefully to help the student beat the odds. FAST™ includes both GOM and SSM assessments that can be used to track student progress. Once the data are entered, regular review and interpretation of student scores will guide the next steps.
Interested educators may contact us for a full demonstration of the FAST™ system, assessments, reports, tools, and training supports. Current users are encouraged to review and complete the training unit titled “Progress Monitoring” in the Training section within FAST™. More information is also available in the recorded webinar presented by Dr. Theodore J. Christ on November 16, 2016.
Dr. Rachel Brown is FastBridge Learning’s Senior Academic Officer. She previously served as Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Southern Maine. Her research focuses on effective academic assessment and intervention, including multi-tier systems of support, and she has authored several books on Response to Intervention and MTSS.