Progress Monitoring: Legal Issues and Recommendations for IEP Teams

Article excerpt

Progress monitoring is essential to evaluating the appropriateness of a child's individualized education program (IEP), yet many IEP teams fail to develop or implement progress monitoring plans, improperly delegate such responsibilities, or use inappropriate measurements to determine student progress. Not all IEP teams plan or implement progress monitoring for behavior intervention plans. Those teams that do include progress monitoring often do not meet federal requirements, or their practices do not provide meaningful data. How can we improve IEP progress monitoring for students with disabilities?

Both the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) and the 2004 Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) require that a student's individualized education program (IEP) include:

* A statement of the child's present level of academic achievement and functional performance;

* A statement of measurable annual goals;

* A statement of the special education, related and supplemental services to be provided to the child;

* An explanation of the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with nondisabled children in the regular class and in the activities;

* A statement of any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the child on state and district-wide assessments;

* A statement of dates and duration of services provided;

* Appropriate, measurable post secondary goals and the transition services to be provided; and

* A statement of how the child's progress toward the annual goals will be measured (20 U.S.C. § 1414Cd)(I)(A)).

The progress monitoring provision also requires that the IEP specify how the child's parents will be regularly informed of the child's progress toward the goals, and the extent to which progress is considered sufficient (20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(I)(A)(I)(III)). Progress monitoring helps IEP teams address any lack of expected progress toward the annual goals of the Code of Federal Regulations (1999) (34 C.F.R. § 300.324(b)(l)) and make decisions concerning the effectiveness of curriculum delivery (Peck & Scarpati, 2005).

Progress monitoring is essential to evaluating the appropriateness of a child's program, yet there is less compliance with this required component of the IEP than any other (Yell, 1998), and current progress monitoring practices often fail to produce vital and meaningful data (Pemberton, 2003).

Legal Decisions

Several administrative and judicial decisions have focused on the absence of adequate progress monitoring. In general, courts have been unwilling to accept school district assertions concerning the appropriateness of a student's program absent proof in the form of data (Zelin, 2000). A review of recent decisions concerning progress monitoring reveals five primary areas of concern regarding progress monitoring:

* The IEP team fails to develop or implement progress monitoring plans;

* Responsibilities for progress monitoring are improperly delegated;

* The IEP team does not plan or implement progress monitoring for behavior intervention plans (BIPs);

* The team uses inappropriate measures to determine student progress towards graduation; or

* Progress monitoring is not frequent enough to meet the requirements of IDEA or to provide meaningful data to IEP teams.

Lack of Plans for Progress Monitoring

IDEA 1997 clearly required that a student's IEP include a plan for progress monitoring, yet many IEPs have been deemed inadequate-to the extent of denying students with disabilities an appropriate education-because of a lack of such plans or a failure to implement them.

In Pennsbury School District (2000), the hearing officer concluded that an IEP lacked "adequate statements regarding how [the student's] progress toward the annual goals will be measured" (102 LRP 10466) and that the IEP was not reasonably calculated to provide educational benefit to the student. …