Progress monitoring is a critical component of simplifying response to intervention. Simply stated, there is no RTI unless we know the extent to which students are responding. The process of monitoring a student’s response to instruction and intervention, and the evidence that is produced and collaboratively analyzed, represent a significant juncture in a team’s problem-solving process regarding a student.

  • Is the student responding adequately to supports?
  • Does the student’s progress mean that supports can be reduced or discontinued?
  • What does the student’s lack of progress reveal about the student’s needs and how can interventions be more targeted and successful?

Progress monitoring can be most simply explained and efficiently conducted by describing how we uniquely monitor a student’s response to intervention in Tier 2, Tier 3, and behavior. Progress monitoring has seemed to stump many schools; teams can’t seem to find the right monitor tool, progress monitoring is confusing, and/or monitoring does not produce useful results. We feel, however, that the problem lies not with the progress monitoring tool, but with the targetedness of the intervention. The more targeted the intervention, the more successful the intervention. Moreover, when we are as clear as possible about the specific areas of student need – about the specific focus of intervention – the type of monitoring tool we use will logically emerge.

Tier 2

Teams identify students who have not yet mastered essential standards through their collaborative administration and analysis of common assessments. These collaborative analyses reveal more than which students require additional time and alternative strategies to learn at high levels; they also provide evidence regarding the specific learning targets with which students require this supplemental support. In planning for their collective response, teams also collaboratively examine which team member has had the greatest levels of relative success in helping students master the grade level or course essentials.

Given the process that teams use to prepare, plan, and provide Tier 2 interventions, the assessment that teams should use to monitor student progress – to assess students’ response to intervention – is logical. Teams should use alternate items from the very same common assessments that revealed specific student needs in the first place. We need not re-administer an entire alternate version of the common assessment, just those items for which the student did not demonstrate mastery and for which they received Tier 2 support. Let’s not over-complicate RTI. We use common assessments to measure student learning of essentials after Tier 1 instruction. Tier 2 supports are designed to provide students in-need more time and alternative strategies to master Tier 1 essentials; we should use alternate items from common assessments to monitor progress of these supports.

Tier 3

Tier 3 supports are designed to provide intensive supports to students with significant deficits in foundational or universal skills. We define universal academic skills as reading, number sense, writing, and English language acquisition. When screening of students reveals significant difficulties, we diagnose to determine the causes of those difficulties. For example:

  • A Grade 4 student cannot decode mono-syllabic words, which significantly impacts fluency and comprehension of text in any content area.
  • A Grade 7 student lacks conceptual and procedural knowledge of place value and the conservation of numbers, which impacts success with any topic in mathematics, as well as knowledge of timelines in social studies, the periodic table in science, and heart rate in physical education.
  • A Grade 9 student cannot write an intelligible sentence, one with correct subject-verb agreement, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, which impacts success with demonstrating mastery in any content area.
  • A Grade 6 student has attended US schools since Kindergarten, learning English as a second language. Peers have been designated as English proficient or as advanced English learners, but this Grade 6 student is still assessed in the early intermediate range. A significant deficit in the rate of English language acquisition will significantly impact success with both receptive and expressive language in every content area.

When students are screened and diagnosed to possess significant deficits with foundational skills, they must receive intensive, Tier 3 supports. When Tier 1 and supplemental Tier 2 supports are not resulting in student mastery of essentials, we must consider that deficits in foundational skills may be the cause, and we must provide intensive, Tier 3 supports. Tier 3 supports are targeted on foundational skills and there are progress monitoring assessments specially designed for measuring progress on these skills, known as curriculum based measurements of CBMs.

Unlike other assessments, CBMs are designed to:

  • Be sensitive to small improvements
  • Allow for multiple administrations through the use of alternate versions
  • Be brief, making them efficient to administer
  • Assess specific skills that represent a broader domain, e.g., a pseudo-word fluency assessment phonics
  • Allow for trend lines to be compared to norm-referenced aim lines, allowing student performance to be compared to the student’s past performance and a target

To accurately determine the extent to which students are responding to Tier 3 interventions, CBMs should be selected that match the student’s current level of need and support, which may not be the student’s current grade level. A CBM should be also selected that best matches the skill area in which the student is currently receiving support.

While CBMs are specially designed assessments, schools need not spend a great deal of money on them; they can often be found for free or at little cost. While they are specially designed, they should not be misapplied. They are simply intended to measure student progress while receiving intensive, targeted supports – student response to Tier 3 intervention.

Behavior and Attendance

When a student’s behavior is impacting academic and school success, teams must first determine the causes of student misbehavior using a tool such as a simplified functional behavioral analysis or FBA. A collaborative examination of the antecedents or causes of misbehavior will allow teams to help students improve specific behavioral skills with specific behavioral strategies. We measure a student’s response to these interventions – we monitor student progress in the areas of behavior and attendance – using a research-based process known as check-in/checkout or CI/CO.

CI/CO is both a monitoring and a mentoring tool. First, though, we must ensure that the target behavior has been determined, that a strategy to improve the target behavior has been identified, and that the student and all staff who work with the student understand the target behavior and strategy. Under these conditions, CI/CO is a simple, powerful monitoring tool.

CI/CO produces timely data, data that can be used to measure the effectiveness of the strategy and measure student progress. Students are intentionally involved in monitoring their behavior, and mentoring builds the relationships and provides the guidance and feedback that will contribute to improved habits and behaviors. This same CI/CO monitoring procedure can be used to monitor and mentor student progress with attendance.

The type of progress monitoring tool should relate to the type of interventions that we are providing and the types of skills we are addressing.


Type of progress that staff is monitoring Type of progress monitoring tool to use
Progress in response to Tier 2 interventions Alternate versions of common assessments
Progress in response to Tier 3 interventions Curriculum-based measurement
Progress in response to behavioral interventions Check-in/checkout procedures



The success of progress monitoring is dependent on the targetedness of the monitoring, which in turn is dependent on the targetedness of the interventions themselves. When students are involved in the monitoring and goal-setting process, progress monitoring can shift from being a burden to being a powerful component of simplifying RTI.




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