We hear the word “progress” often, but what does it mean? We’ve all heard these statements: the child must make meaningful progress, there is a lack of progress, where is the evidence of progress… what does progress mean and how to we quantify it? Progress is one of the most important links to the entire special education process.
Meaningful progress refers to a measurable improvement in skills, as dictated by the IEP goals. This requires that very accurate, detailed and verifiable data be taken at school.
Take a look at your child’s goals in the IEP. How are they being tracked for progress? Are you being shown pre and post testing that verify that the progress being made is what your child is capable of given their circumstances?
Another very important area of progress that should be documented is the amount and kind of support your child requires in order to reach their goals. Has your child mastered a goal but still requires modifications or accommodations to do it? If a child mastered a goal but needs twice the time to finish it, is this realistic in the real world? If they have a para professional how much assistance is required from them to accomplish the goal? Is the child independent or do they need the supervision or cues from their para professional to complete it? Are you seeing at home that your child requires more help to master a goal than at school? If so why?
Progress Across Developmental Areas
Have you been told by your school district that there has to be some “academic” impact? Progress should be seen in skills across developmental areas. That includes social and emotional skills, as determined by the courts (in Stroudsburg Area Sch. Dist. v. Jared M., 1998). Progress is not just about academic skills. We all know this makes perfect sense. When you graduated from school, there was no doubt that you needed academics, but what about the soft skills that are essential in the workforce too? Is your child making progress in social/emotional, communication, behavior, gross and fine motor skills? Don’t neglect these in the process of pursuing academics.
Progress is About Student Success, Despite Their Disability
Do the progress notes or report card talk about what teacher does or what the child is expected to do? Student success is all about what the child can do, independently or with support, that they can demonstrate at school and in other settings. All students have strengths and weaknesses; don’t accept the excuse that your child has a disability and this is why he can’t learn or acquire new skills. The disability gives us valuable information about the child, but it is not a justification for a child not learning a skill or being incapable of making progress. All children can learn, we just need to find out how to teach them successfully. “If the learner hasn’t learned, then we need to evaluate why not. The article below gives great insight about struggling students.
- Dr. Michele Havens
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