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Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities: The Importance of Data and Progress Monitoring

by Barb Beck

Creative Content Director, Specially Designed Education Services (SDES)

📣 Students with Diverse Needs: Navigating Challenges and Triumphs 📚

Students with moderate to severe disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, and multiple disabilities, require evidence-based, data-driven and individualized special education services. 🌈 Our students face challenges in communication, academics, adaptive behaviors, and independent living skills, impacting their daily functioning in school and the community. 🏫 As special education teachers, it’s our mission to craft personalized programs addressing each student’s unique needs.

The Goal of Data-Driven Success 📈

Collecting data is the cornerstone of effective teaching for these students. 🎯 It helps teachers determine current performance levels, set meaningful goals, and develop interventions. Given the diverse skill levels of these students, high-quality data provides invaluable insights that shape our teaching strategies. 🧠 Whether it’s IEP goals, behavior plans, or life skills checklists, establishing reliable systems for data compilation is non-negotiable.

Analyzing Progress toward Goals for Informed Action 🔄

Data isn’t just a paperwork exercise; it’s a dynamic tool. 📊 Regular analysis helps identify successful strategies and areas needing improvement. Sharing reports with parents, administrators, therapists, and paraprofessionals builds a collaborative environment. Clear communication and predictable reporting cycles enhance team decision-making and support the students’ best interests. 🤝

Empowering Students in the Process of Reaching Their Goals 🎓

Students themselves play a vital role in progress monitoring. Encouraging them to graph behavior charts, self-assess, or use assistive technology fosters self-determination skills. Their perspectives on learning, when factored into data analysis, enrich the overall understanding of progress.

Programming Fidelity 🛠️

With intensive support needs, consistent adherence to prescribed interventions and supports is crucial for success. 🤲 Programming fidelity, maintained across all team members, ensures systematic instruction and reinforces skills across different settings. 🔄 This unity enhances the validity of progress monitoring data.

Long-Term Benefits of Goal-Based Data 💡

While data collection and analysis may seem time-consuming initially, the long-term benefits are immeasurable. 🌟 Targeted information guides decisions, enabling special education teachers to provide every student with the tailored instruction they deserve to reach their highest potential.

🚀 Teacher’s Call to Action:

  • Establish reliable systems for collecting and compiling data on IEP goals.
  • Actively analyze and share insights with the education team.
  • Encourage student involvement in progress monitoring for enhanced self-determination.
  • Uphold programming fidelity consistently across all team members.
  • Recognize that the initial time investment in data pays invaluable dividends, enabling targeted and effective instruction.

By fostering consistent systems, team communication, and programming fidelity, special education teachers can make targeted and effective instruction a reality for their students with complex needs. 👩‍🏫👨‍🎓

For more information on equipping your students with the most effective and meaningful approach to teaching and learning Functional Academics, be sure to visit and ask questions at to get in touch with experts who know how to guide you and your students toward effective instruction and programming.

For more on this topic, check out the FAST 15 podcast with new episodes posting Fridays. Be sure to subscribe on your podcast platform of choice. If you like what you hear, please write a review. We’d love to hear from you! 

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

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Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
Play Video
Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.