After you’ve collected data and tracked progress, it’s time to write progress updates. Writing IEP progress updates doesn’t have to be the pain that we often think it is! With these tips and tricks, you will be able to quickly and easily write progress updates for IEP goals in no time at all. Keep reading to find some tips and tricks when writing IEP progress updates.
What are progress updates?
Progress updates are written documentation you send home at an agreed upon interval that updates parents on specific IEP goals. In my district, we write around 2-3 paragraphs per student per goal area. They are official documentation that stay ‘attached’ to the IEP. They are available for anyone who has access to the IEP to see. This makes them super helpful when you get a new student- it’s a great place to check for information. Think of them as as a present level, but they are updated more frequently and not as in depth. Progress updates are written based on information you collect as part of your progress monitoring.
How often do you write updates?
This will vary by district, but in my district we do progress updates once a quarter. We send home progress updates when report cards go home. Remember, this is not the only time we communicate progress. We still make phone calls, schedule conferences, send emails, write notes, and send home completed work with progress. These updates are just a formal process that is part of the IEP process. While future teachers won’t see phone calls I made or Arun’s actual work samples from his 4th grade phonics goal, they will be able to read the progress updates I sent home.
Including Data in Your Progress Updates
This is a pet peeve of mine. Your progress updates MUST include data. That means numbers, friends., That means some sort of provable, black and white information that can not be disputed. It’s great to say that Arun is “almost always successful” at decoding CVC words. But, you need to include a number. Is he successful 95% of the time? 82%? 64? A number strengthens your update and ensures that you are truly collecting data that matches the IEP goal.
It’s also important to remember that the updates are going home to family, so don’t get so caught up in using technical jargon. Explain acronyms or terms as much as possible. If you are discussing a number of trials or percentage accuracy, explain that. Updates should be readable and understandable by EVERYONE.
Including Anecdotal Information in Your Progress Updates
After you’ve made sure that your update includes numbers and data, make sure you describe what they mean. If a child is scoring an average of 47%, explain what they are doing incorrectly the other 53% of the time. Make notes about things like whether they are able to quickly solve the problems or need to think them through. Are they using a particular strategy? What about prompting?
And of course, make sure you focus on the positives and negatives. No parent wants to read all about their child’s weaknesses. But, you don’t want to include only positives to avoid making them feel uncomfortable with their child’s struggle. Include a balance of things the student can do well and things the child can still work on.
Other Information to Include in Your Updates
If the child is not making sufficient progress, I always explain what I’ll be changing to help them make those gains. Maybe I’ll be moving to work on CVC words in isolation before going back to tackle them in sentences. I make sure I note any changes in my progress updates. And, if what I’m changing needs to be addressed on the IEP (think things like increasing service times), I make notes that we will be having an amendment meeting to change the IEP.
Another important factor I like to include in this section, is the student attendance. I make notes of absences, tardies, and early dismissals. Even if the child has great attendance, I make a note of it. This provides a running record of attendance. It also gives me a quick way to check to see if the student is chronically absent. You may also begin to notice that Arun’s attendance is great at the beginning of the year, but by the fourth nine weeks, he misses quite a few days. If you read progress updates when you get new students, you can start talking to parents before the absences begin. This will help to prevent the pattern from happening again.
A discussion that has came up in my district quite a bit, especially since March of 2020, is whether we should document attendance on the progress updates for students who are absent with excusals. For instance, they tested positive and missed 14 days of school. To protect myself, I always write their absences in my progress updates (for every student, regardless of number of absences or reasons). This allows myself, parents, and future teachers to see exactly which absences are excused. Of course, I never specify why they were excused and never put in information related to their health, deaths in the family, etc. But, regardless of the reason they are out (valid or not) I think it’s important to note that time out from school is missed instructional time.
Want to see a sample? Here’s one of the sentences I put in my progress updates. Feel free to tweak it to meet your district/student needs:
“As of June 5, 2022, Arun has the following attendance: 17 absences, (9 excused), 9 tardies (6 excused), 4 early dismissals (1 excused).”
A well written progress update is helpful to families, staff, and even the next case manager. Progress updates are a great way to see growth over a given time period. They can be critical to student success if the student moves to a new school. They are also a great resource when writing new present levels.