How do you track data on an IEP goal?
When considering a new year, a new IEP, or progress reporting on an IEP, it’s important to figure out a good system for IEP goals data collection. Consider HOW it will look, WHO will be taking it, WHAT it will include, and HOW OFTEN it will be collected and analyzed. You can find more about these considerations in a previous post.
Three tips on preparing for IEP goals data collection:
- Keep it simple. Make sure you choose a system that is simple enough to be understood and taken with fidelity so you can truly analyze the results!
- Keep it trainable. Meaning, make sure whatever system you choose, you can train everyone who works with the student, who you want to take data, so that they understand and can demonstrate proficiency. If the data isn’t taken accurately, the results won’t help the student!
- Keep it actionable. What I mean is consider a data-taking process that you can truly *see* the progress (or lack of) and make changes when it’s clear a course correction is needed. A good rule of thumb is, if you can show someone who isn’t familiar with the student the data, and THEY can understand what it means, that’s a good sign!
What are the types of IEP goals data collection?
There are essentially two types of data we take: data on skills we want to increase and data on skills we want to decrease. Typically, this means challenging behavior (decrease) and skill acquisition (increase), but really it’s just up or down. Do you want to see MORE of something or LESS of it. Let’s look at some options.
Skill Acquisition Data
The majority of the data we take on students is skill acquisition. I mean, usually students are at school learning new skills, right? And the more functional skills they learn, the fewer challenging behaviors they have, anyway!
The most common way of tracking skill acquisition goals is with frequency and rate, correct and incorrect responses to a particular <thing.>
A specific IEP data collection example
I find that a combination for paper and digital data collection options works best for me. I generally print and have staff take paper data, then I plug the raw data into Google Sheets or another method to make the progress lines all pretty to look at. Let’s look at an example:
A 5-step process for IEP goal data collection
Step 1: Gather information about the student. I use this form that I call “My Student” to send to parents (either print or digital, whatever works best for them) to learn a little about a new student. I love this system! Especially learning what the family considers reinforcers for the kiddo! I also look at previous goals and progress. If this is a new student, I try to get eyes on the student, even if just for 10 minutes, before I really process how I want to gather data. If needed, I’ll create new goals. Once I have that info, I decide on HOW I want to gather measurable data. Interval recording? Frequency? Permanent product?
Assuming I started with a SMART IEP goal, I can then break the goal into smaller objectives or “sets.” This will allow me to make sure we are going to hit the annual goal and make those smaller course corrections to hit that aim!
Step 2: Design your data system. Train your staff. Ready to go!
For this goal, I’m going to have this student in small group, and a para will be taking data on this goal with two other students. So I’m going to choose a very simple frequency measure that she can keep on a small clipboard with other students’ data sheets. It’s a simple + (correct) or – (incorrect or prompted) that the para has been trained on.
Step 3: Gather daily data.
So here we have some collected data. I like to have the paras include their initials on the data each day, so that if I have questions, I can go to that person to get clarification.
Step 4: Record daily raw data. Paper or digital.
I can then track each set of daily data on a goal sheet. Whether I’m using a paper method or a digital method (e.g., Google™ Sheets is my favorite!), I choose a method that is easy for me to track over time. My Google Sheets method definitely provides me with a wonderful visual that I am able to add to progress reports or other family communication.
Step 5: Analyze data once a week or so. Make adjustments as needed!
At least when possible, analyze once a week! At least once a month. It helps to have a system that presents you with a quick, visual analysis.
Here are two graphs of the same goal. What would you say about “next steps” for each one?
Oof. Looks like something funky is happening in the first snapshot. Here, I would be looking at the raw data, maybe talking to the staff to see if they noticed something different. I would, if I haven’t already, observe the student to see if I can identify why the change.
In the second snapshot, it looks like the student hits mastery a few days ago. So either I need to move along or I might expect to see behaviors as a result of boredom with the task or, at the very minimum, a missed opportunity for progress! Move along, move along.
So there it is. One example (of the bajillions out there!) of how to take measurable data on an IEP goal that will lend to fantastic progress and a great year in your program!
Here’s a video example that I made for a teacher who got my Google Sheets system.