As an early childhood educator, you’re responsible for helping your students grow and develop during their most formative years. As a result, it’s crucial that you develop established and effective means for monitoring student progress in your classroom.
At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to helping educators like you get the training and skills needed to tackle teaching’s biggest challenges — including how to monitor student progress.
That’s why we’re sharing these tips for creating progress monitoring strategies that are effective and easy to implement.
Start by determining your students’ current skill levels.
In order to properly track your students’ growth, you’ll need to establish a baseline to compare future progress against. If you want to track their overall development, make sure you do this as soon as a new student joins your classroom. You can establish this baseline through verbal assessments, observations and/or conversations with the child’s parent or guardian.
While you’re exploring your new student’s initial skill set and level of knowledge, record your findings so you can compare their progress against the baseline you’ve already established. You should also collect any evidence that might help demonstrate your student’s current skill levels, such as work samples, photographs or videos.
Finally, you should also establish baselines for your students in individual skill areas before introducing them as class-wide lesson concepts. This will help you better tailor your curriculum to your students’ needs.
Set clear, definable learning goals.
Once you’ve determined your students’ current skill levels, the next step is to set clear goals to help you when monitoring student progress. All of your goals should follow the SMART system — meaning they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Depending on where you’re teaching, your state may already have goals in place that you can customize based on each student.
Once you’ve determined your students’ learning goals, document them alongside your initial observation notes. Share these notes with their parents so they can help their child work toward your set goals at home. Sharing your observations and goals ahead of time will also give you something to discuss at parent-teacher conferences.
For older students, you can also create visual goal trackers so they can see their progress throughout the year. This customizable template from Teachers Pay Teachers should give you an idea of how these trackers can look.
Observe your students and gather evidence.
As your students work toward their learning and development goals, make sure you set aside time to observe them and note their progress. Try watching them during free play, giving them short check-in assessments or taking photos of them as they complete given activities in the classroom.
If possible, set up a calendar to keep track of how often you’ll monitor progress toward specific student learning goals. While creating your schedule, keep your own abilities and time in mind – too much measurement can cause you unnecessary stress and lead to burnout.
Additionally, it’s important to note that certain goals (and students) might need more monitoring than others. For example, if you have a student who struggles to communicate verbally, you might need to set aside more time to monitor that student than you might for a student who excels at communication and has more advanced goals.
If you’re tracking student progress manually, chances are the paperwork will pile up quickly. Between initial assessments, check-ins, observations and evidence, you’ll have a lot to keep up with for each student. Even if you’re monitoring student progress digitally (using a platform like our sister company LifeCubby), make sure you have an organization system in place to keep track of each student’s information.
One tip for how to monitor student progress in an organized manner is to create progress binders for each student. These binders can house all of the student’s goals, assessments and notes.
While binders can help you maintain your progress documents, they’re often bulky and can take up a lot of room — making them a more difficult option for teachers who are low on classroom space or have a lot of students. If you fall into that category, you might want to look into creating progress cards or slim folders instead.
However you choose to organize your information, keep it where you can easily find and access it so that you can quickly locate and share it with parents or administrators who request it.
Compare your data against learning standards and benchmarks.
When monitoring student progress, make sure that you look beyond your self-created learning goals. Set aside regular time throughout the year (most schools do this on a nine-week or semester basis) to compare your students’ skill levels and knowledge to state-, school- or curriculum-defined benchmarks and standards. This will help you get a more holistic view of each child’s development compared to others — and will help ensure they’re on track to get promoted at the end of the year. If your program doesn’t have pre-defined learning standards, you can also use published child assessment tools. These tools have often been researched and tested and are widely accepted as a credible way to track student development.
Communicate progress with parents.
Your students don’t stop growing once they leave the classroom, so keeping parents informed about their child’s progress is key. If you don’t already have regular parent-teacher conferences, set aside time every couple of months to start hosting them. These meetings provide a great opportunity to walk parents through their kid’s learning goals and the observations you’ve gathered on how they’re working to meet them. These conferences also help give parents activities they can do at home to further support their child’s growth.
In addition to regular formal meetings, make sure you keep lines of constant communication open with families, so you can provide informal updates and hear about any concerns parents may have. You can do this during drop-off/pick-up or you can use a communications platform.
Want to learn more about how to monitor student progress? Our online courses can help! Our Assessing Young Children series is full of progress monitoring strategies, growth assessment methods and more.
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