In our last blog post, Mr. Musolf introduced the idea of Progress Monitoring by using a clear and simple road trip analogy. In this entry, he goes on to explain how it is implemented at Lawrence Lower School.
Formative Progress Monitoring at Lawrence Lower School – utilizing the Aimsweb System through Pearson – has been designed to capture students’ growth with academic fluency. Each student receives monitoring with their fluency skills in reading, math facts, and writing.
Please note, there are many other ways we monitor academic growth, including daily teacher observation; in-class assignments; reviews; mastered homework; mid-year reports; end-year reports; and as mentioned in the previous blog, summative Woodcock Johnson Achievement testing.
Progress monitoring simply captures one aspect of a student’s academic profile – fluency.
Fluency can be measured by evaluating how fast a student can perform a task. A student’s speed increases gradually as skill, accuracy, and proficiency improves with a task. It can be measured over time and improvement in rate can be interpreted as progress. Essentially, fluency measures how “easy” something can be done. It frees up cognitive energy to perform the more difficult tasks.
For example, if a student spends considerable mental energy decoding when reading, their comprehension is likely to be impacted. Similarly, if a student spends a lot of time trying to remember basic math facts, there may be confusion or simple errors when trying to apply math in story problems or real world contexts. Lastly, if a student is mechanically slow to get their thoughts down on paper, they may lose their idea and not be able to communicate as well in writing.
Here is a simple description of the three areas (reading, math, writing) we monitor progress for at Lawrence:
- Reading fluency is simply the number of words read correctly within a minute from a passage. This is measured weekly for those students who need it.
- Math fluency is simply the number of basic math facts in a specific computation area (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) a student can correctly perform in two minutes. This is measured weekly for ALL students.
- Writing fluency measures the total number of words written as well as how often a student can pair two words consecutively that convey meaning and are spelled correctly. The students are given a writing prompt, 60 seconds to brainstorm, and three minutes to write. This is measured biweekly for ALL students.
Overall, for most of the students, progress is captured by improvement in fluency performance and/or accuracy. It is only one piece of many that captures how well a son or daughter is performing at Lawrence.
This process helps us answer some important academic questions. Is a child progressing? If so, how quickly? Are they benefiting from Lawrence techniques? Are they heading in the right direction?
Evaluation requires a bit of courage. Afterall, what if the results are not favorable? This prompts more difficult questions like “What are we doing that is not working?” or “What do we need to do differently?”
But remember, it is of great benefit to answer those difficult questions in the middle of a school year, so we have time to tweak what needs to be done. Our goal is just like our parents’ goal: To help each one of our students reach their fullest potential.
And that is a trip worth taking!
Bill Musolf joined Lawrence in June 2007 as the Dean of Students at the Lower School campus. He has been in education since 1993, serving as a school psychologist and elementary guidance counselor. Bill received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The Ohio State University, and completed both his master’s and Education Specialist degrees at Michigan State University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.