By Joseph Kovaleski, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The second key assessment approach in a multi-tier service delivery is progress monitoring. One might say that progress monitoring is the key to RTI, in that it provides a precise assessment of a student’s response during the course of instruction or intervention. We have known that progress monitoring is an effective instructional practice for more than 20 years. In a seminal review of the literature on progress monitoring as of 1986, Lynn Fuchs found the following features of progress monitoring to be directly connected with student achievement:
- the setting of ambitious goals
- assessment of students twice per week
- graphing and student data
- use of data utilization rules to make instructional decisions
I referenced this historic study to emphasize that we have known about the benefits of progress monitoring for many years, although it may be argued that it has only become widespread in the years leading up to the RTI movement. As with universal screening, progress monitoring was originally developed in the context of CBM and most of the research has been done with this particular application.
Some researchers have recently expressed concern about the reliability of oral reading fluency probes in determining a student's rate of improvement during the intervention. This will be an important area to watch over the next few years, especially as rate of improvement measures are conceptualized as part of the determination of eligibility under the specific learning disability category. In the meantime, practitioners should use measures that are similar in level of difficulty to determine rate of improvement. The Renaissance Learning products that I described in my last post may be especially useful in addressing the reliability issue. In selecting progress monitoring measures, practitioners are advised to access the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring.
Finally, let me briefly addressed the issue of "diagnostic" assessment, although I prefer to use the term "intensive skills analysis" for this aspect of RTI. In my opinion, when we are faced with students who fail to make meaningful progress in spite of our best intervention efforts, our assessment should be a detailed analysis of their academic performance rather than a diagnosis of their "underlying disability."
Two approaches that are particularly relevant in conducting a deep-level skills analysis are curriculum-based assessment (CBA) and curriculum-based evaluation (CBE). CBA was originally developed by Ed Gickling and features a determination of the student's instructional level as the key to planning interventions. CBE has been developed by Ken Howell and his colleagues and features a step-by-step analysis of the student's academic skills.
Of course, knowing where individuals students are as a result of these types of assessments only sets the stage for our real work in RTI, namely the development and implementation of effective interventions to address the students' needs. More about that in my next blog post.