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Special Education Progress Monitoring

If you're like most special education teachers, you want to see your students make progress each and every day. You work tirelessly to set goals and objectives that will help them reach their fullest potential. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, progress monitoring can be a challenge. In this blog post, we will discuss 11 ways to increase special education progress monitoring success!

Special Education and
IEP Planning

How does special education work?

Children who have been identified as having a disability are entitled to receive services. These services are designed to meet the child’s individual needs and help them progress in their education. Services may be provided in a variety of settings, including the child’s home, school, or community.

Why do we need special education?

Special education is designed to address the unique needs of children with disabilities. Disabilities can range from physical (e.g., cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness) to intellectual (e.g., Down syndrome) to emotional/behavioral (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

What are the steps in the special education process?

10 steps to special education under IDEA


A referral for special education is initiated when someone expresses concern that a child may have a disability and is not making progress in school. The referral can come from anyone including, but not limited to, parents, the child's teacher, school psychologists, or medical professionals. Once a referral is made, the school must complete certain steps within specific timelines.


Child Evaluation

A child evaluation is an assessment used to gather information about a child’s academic functioning and special needs. The evaluation process includes a review of the child’s educational records, observations of the child in various settings, and input from parents and teachers. The child evaluation is used to determine if the child is eligible for special education or related services. If requested an independent educational evaluation may be conducted at public or parent expense.


Identification of Eligibility

A child must meet eligibility criteria set forth by the state in order to qualify for special education. Public education is provided to all children aged 3-21, however, special education is only provided to children with disabilities who need specially designed instruction. A child must have a disability that adversely impacts their educational performance and progress to be eligible for special education.

These criteria vary from state to state but generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Intellectual disability

  • Hearing impairment

  • Visual impairment

  • Speech or language impairment

  • Serious emotional disturbance

  • Orthopedic impairment

  • Autism spectrum disorder

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Other health impairment


Development of Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

Once determined that a child's education requires special education support, The school must develop an IEP team and IEP. The IEP is a document that outlines the child's strengths, weaknesses, educational goals, and ability and levels at which they access the general education curriculum. This can also include extracurricular and nonacademic activities support depending on the student's needs.


IEP Meeting

The IEP meeting is a meeting of all the key members of the child’s special education team. This team includes the child’s parents, teachers, school administrators, and special education service providers. The purpose of IEP meetings is to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child.


Implementation of the IEP

Once the IEP is developed, it is implemented. This means that the special education programs and supports outlined in the IEP are put into place.


Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring is a way to track a child’s progress towards meeting their goals. This can be done through formal assessments, informal observations, or a combination of both. Progress monitoring helps to ensure that the child is making progress and allows for modifications to the IEP if necessary.


Annual Review and Reevaluation

An annual review is a meeting that is held to discuss the child’s progress and make any necessary changes to the IEP. A reevaluation is an assessment used to determine if the child continues to meet eligibility criteria for services. A reevaluation is typically conducted every three years unless the parent or school requests one sooner.


Transition Planning

Transition planning is the process of preparing a child for life after high school. This includes developing a plan for postsecondary education, vocational education, employment, and independent living. Transition planning begins when the child is 14 years old and must be included in the IEP.


Termination of Eligibility

A child may no longer be eligible for receiving special education services if they no longer meet eligibility criteria or if they have made sufficient progress towards their goals such that services are no longer necessary. A child may also be discharged from special education if they move out of the school district or turn 21 years old.

In summary, the special education process is governed by federal and state laws. The process begins when a child is referred for services. A referral can be made by the child’s parent, teacher, or doctor. Once a referral is made, the child undergoes an evaluation to determine if they meet eligibility criteria for services. If the child is determined to be eligible, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed. The IEP is a document that outlines the child’s goals and the special education services and supports that will be provided. Once the IEP is developed, it is implemented and progress is monitored. The IEP is reviewed and revised on an annual basis, or more often if needed. Finally, the child is reevaluated every three years to determine if they continue to meet eligibility criteria for special education services.

Special education is a form of individualized instruction provided to children with special needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that provides for special education services to be available to eligible children from birth through age 21.

What is an ​Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

An Individualized Education Program (commonly referred to as IEP) is a document, mandated by the IDEA, which clearly defines the individual goal and objectives set for a child with a disability. These programs are written documentation of the special education program and academic modifications required to meet the child’s individual needs.


What Is The Purpose of an Individualized Education Plan

An iep guides the education of a student with special needs. The plan is individualized to meet the specific strengths and weaknesses of the student.

An IEP has four major purposes:


1. To identify the student’s disability

2. To set measurable goals for the student

3. To specify the special education services the student will receive

4. To determine when and how the student’s progress will be measured


IEPs are developed by a team including the child’s general education and special education teacher(s), parents, and supporting school staff. This team meets annually (at minimum) to assess the academic and developmental progress of the student, design appropriate educational plans, and adhere to any changes if necessary. The main goal of these reviews is to ensure that the child is receiving appropriate and adequate services within their least restrictive environment.​


​While each child’s IEP is unique, IDEA mandates that all IEPs must contain the following specific information:

  • Student’s present level of academic achievement and overall performance

  • Annual goals and/or objectives for the child (milestones that both parents and school staff feel are reasonably achievable within the next year.)

  • Special education and related services, including supplementary services such as adaptive communication devices, adequate transportation services, and appropriate school personnel

  • Speech Therapy​

  • Physical therapy

  • Occupational Therapy

  • A portion of the day that the child will be educated apart from his or her typically-developing peers

  • Participation and/or modification to the district-, state-, and nation-wide assessments

  • How child’s progress will be measured


​For a much more detailed explanation of everything that goes into creating an IEP, as well as an overview of the basic Special Education Process under IDEA, please refer to the U.S. Department of Education's Guide to the Individualized Education Program External link.

How does special education work
Steps in the special education process
The Purpose of an Individualized Education Plan
Special Education Teaching Resources and IEP Goal Bank | TeachTastic
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