Ask the Attorney: How Can I Tell If My Child is Making Progress if He is Still Reading Below Grade Level?

The IEP team will measure your child’s progress based on whether he meets the goals in that year’s IEP. That said, it is important to make sure those goals are measurable. You will often see phrases like, “The student must read 10 words correctly in 2 of 3 trials with 80% accuracy.” It’s not always clear what this means. In general, a trial refers to the amount of times a student has attempted a particular task, and accuracy refers to the percentage of times the student attempted the task and achieved the goal (here, reading 10 words correctly 2 of the 3 times he tried). However, we don’t know if he had to attempt all of the trials in one sitting or if he could spread them out over several months. Similarly, we don’t know how IEP team measures “80% accuracy” – does it mean the student averaged 80% over many trials, or that he achieved 80% accuracy in one set of 3 trials? We need more details to understand if he has actually made any progress.

Here are a few tips:

First, if you and the team agree to use trials as the form of measurement, stick to only trials. Same goes for the accuracy measure – if you want to track progress in percentages, use only percentages; don’t throw trials in there. If you mix trials and accuracy together, it will be challenging to figure out where the student started and how far he has progressed. There is not a ‘right way’ to write a goal, but it’s important to focus on the unit of measurement so you can compare as time goes by.Second, try to get work samples as frequently as possible. Where the IEP says “as measured by,” you might often find “teacher observation” also written there. Teacher observation is extremely valuable, as teachers spend the most time with your child and are most familiar with their academic performance. The thing to remember about observations is that they can be subjective, even with the best intentions. By requesting work samples, you’ll get some tangible evidence of what your child is capable of doing in the classroom. Keep in mind that IEP forms differ among districts and states, so you’ll need to take a look at your form to learn the right terms.Third, for whatever measurement the team uses, add the words “at least” to set a baseline so you can measure what your student has achieved. For example, “The student must read 10 words correctly with at least 80% accuracy” will ensure that your child has completely satisfied the goal, and maybe even surpassed it.