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5 Tips for a Meaningful IEP Progress Report

iep progress report

How do you write a meaningful IEP progress report?

Being a special education teacher bring with it many challenges, not the least of which is PAPERWORK! Writing an IEP progress report, which has to be done several times a year, can drive a teacher bonkers. Between data collection, progress reporting, kind words to families, and plans going forward, a proper IEP progress report takes time and mental energy. Let's talk about it!

We've all been there. Sitting in front of the screen, the metaphorical piles of reports in front of us to get through. Ugh, if only they gave us enough time to do this!!!

Well, I can't help with the time required. It is a pain in the butt for sure. But maybe just some tips about what to include. Maybe especially helpful for a new special education teacher!

Switching hats for a minute to my parent hat, I can tell you that we really appreciate hearing from you in an official report. And we want to hear more than “making progress.” Tell me what kind of progress. Tell me if we're on the right track. Need to change something? Powering on? I may have a child who can't tell me how each day is at school. I rely on you, my teacher angel, to tell me how we're doing.

While we, as teachers, try to stay in contact with families as often as possible, we all know that this can be difficult with caseloads ever increasing. In a way, the progress report that is sent out 3 or 4 times a year and the one annual IEP meeting may be our only concrete connection to that family.

So, how can we make the most of that time? Establishing the basics to start…

The IEP software I've seen used most often in my area (IEP Online) has this statement, “An IEP (Individual Education Plan) must include a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet each of the student's educational needs that result from the student's disability to enable the student to be involved and make progress in the general education curriculum. In order to be measurable, the goal should include a baseline (“from”), a target (“to”), and a unit of measure.” Love that! Nice and succinct!

Autism teacher and student

In my mommy terms, it's a document of all the official goals that my team has agreed to that will help my kiddo make as much progress as is possible to help him or her reach their absolute highest potential. Kinda important!

What are the components of an IEP Progress Report?

Obviously each district will have their own IEP requirements as far as the paperwork goes. There are many IEP software options out there, so what I'm presenting here are the components that I have found consistent in the districts that I've worked with in my area. As always, make sure you follow your district's requirements.

Progress Reports should be given to families as often as reports cards are given to parents of typically-developing students. This usually means once a trimester or semester, so 3 or 4 times a year.

The essential components are:

  • The annual goal: The annual goal in all its glory. Use this to make sure your progress aligns directly.
  • Date of review: The date of the report. Check with your district if they have specific guidelines, but I generally put a week before the end of the reporting period and use that as my “drop dead” date to get the report done and ready to send to families.
  • Progress (sometimes in a code)*: Short, often coded report of progress (see below for example).
  • Comments: This is really where I do my true reporting. I report data on progress, where we're going, kudos, whatever. I keep this to 3-5 sentences for each target. Less if I can say what I need to say!
    *IEP On-line uses these reporting codes for their progress reports. Yours are probably similar.ES – Emerging Skill demonstrated
    IP – Insufficient Progress demonstrated to meet this annual goal and may not achieve annual goal within duration of IEP
    M – Mastered this annual goal
    NI – Not been provided Instruction on this goal
    PH – Progress being made but hampered by new circumstances
    SP – Sufficient Progress being made to achieve annual goal within duration of IEP

Find some ideas here to help you collect data!

5 tips to writing a meaningful IEP progress report

Presents parents with real data. Stay away from the standard “making progress” without a comment or hard data. I can tell you, as a parent, that's really hard to read. It's almost worse than “insufficient progress” because I know that the teacher just used that as a default. At least “insufficient progress” prompts me to start a conversation. Now, data is my friend. I'm a BCBA. I live and breathe data. 🙂 Reporting on a progress report is really very easy when I already have hard data to plug in! This requires forethought and prep, though, and I know this takes times. Ideas for take regular data is for another day. For now, assuming you have been tracking pretty little data, this is the time to update and report to parents. I can't tell you how much they appreciate the details! So instead of “making progress” with a comment of “doing really well this trimester,” try something like “making progress” and a comment like, “Previous trimester, J had a 20% accuracy on this skill but just got 76% on the same assessment this week! We're going to hit this goal!”

iep data collection
progress report sandwich

Sandwich your comments when possible. What I mean is that if you have to report something not-so-positive, then put it in-between two good comments. Even if you have to report “insufficient progress,” your comment can be something like, “J has been working hard on this goal. He is not yet showing any correct responses, but we are going to try [this new technique] this week to see if we can make some headway. We will keep working on it and let you know!”

Give an idea of where you're going next. Similarly, let the parents know what your plan is going forward. If wonderful progress is already being met, then what's next? If no progress is being made, then what changes are on the horizon to change the trajectory? Help me feel confident my child continues to be in the best hands!

special education progress report aim
iep progress report choice

Send to parents in the mode they are most likely to see. Some parents want the hardcopy sent home. Some parents never get into their child's backpack. Some parents prefer email. If that's allowed in your district, allow that to be the mode. At the beginning of each year, I always send home a get-to-know-your-family sheet where I find out what mode of communication is best for them. And then I honor it! I know that my progress report is my chance, in-between IEP meetings, to officially report on what an awesome kid they have. Also, for some families who don't communicate much during the year, I try to follow up with them at progress report time just to make sure they at the very least know where we are in the year.

Share the progress report with others on the team. This is often overlooked! I know everyone on the team is probably regularly seeing the student, too, so they know where they are on their own goals, but reporting to the rest of the team where you are on your goals just helps everyone stay on the same page. This includes the general education teacher, maybe the counselor, the other IEP team members.

Sample IEP Progress Reports

Let's looks at three sample goals with an example progress report comment….

Behavior—Cooperation with non-preferred task

By May 15, 2021, when given a non-preferred adult directive (e.g., put away a preferred task, go to non-preferred activity), Jonas will take no more than 30 seconds and 1 individual prompt to comply with the direction improving cooperation from 1 to 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities on three consecutive data days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

December 15, 2020 Sufficient progress

Jonas has a number of opportunities a day to follow a non-preferred direction. In the previous three data days, he complied independently an average of 2.7 times for every 5 directives. He continues to follow the schedule independently, especially for preferred activities, and is requiring less prompting to do those non-preferred activities. I am confident he will master this goal.


Cognitive—Math—Picture addition

By May 15, 2021, when given two sets of items and an equation to fill in with numbers, Jonas will say or write the associated number to complete the number sentence (e.g., 4 + 3 = 7) improving addition skills from adding 2 numbers 0 to 9 with 15% accuracy of 20 problems to 80% accuracy of 20 problems as measured by staff observation, daily tasks, and data records.

December 15, 2020 Emerging skill

We just started working on this skill. Jonas currently knows all the numbers to 10 and how many each numeral represents. We are now putting two sets of objects out and letting him choose a magnet number on the board to represent each set, and then we count all the objects together. We will be having him start writing down the three numbers starting next week in a prepared formula!


Language—Labels reinforcers

By May 15, 2021, when given a preferred item and asked, “What’s that?,” Jonas will name the item improving labeling from 0 items to at least 10 items across 3 data collection days as measured by staff observation, daily tasks and data records.

December 15, 2020 Insufficient progress

Jonas' attention to tasks and his behavior has greatly improved these past few months. Despite this, he has not gained any additional labels. We plan to introduce an AAC (an iPad with software with pictures) and provide him with instruction on how to use it to begin requesting and labeling with a voice output device. We will report back to you next month how that is going. If we need to make a change to the IEP to align with the new strategy, we will do it!

It's worth the extra few minutes to write a solid progress report. Plus, once you have the first set done with all the components ironed out, it's actually quite easy to update the next round. Keep taking your monitoring data, plug it in, and report to parents how cool their kid is. Cuz they are!


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