At the beginning of every school year, I like to take mass baselines for all of my students so that I have a good clean idea on where they are toward meeting the goals set for them on their IEPs. Maybe they had a summer miracle or maybe they’ve regressed a little. Today I’m going to show you 5 secrets to taking great baseline data at the beginning of the year (or anytime!).
I actually do this system of mass data collection or progress monitoring 5 times per year – once at the beginning and then once at the end of each quarter, just in time for progress reports. Now, of course I take some type of data at each session on my students. It just might look different.
When you are taking mass baselines or progress monitoring, this is not the time to try and get a lot of trials, write long subjective comments, or probe new skills during your sessions. If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of students to monitor and several objectives for each one. You want clear, objective data for each goal and you want it quickly.
1. Review goals and prep materials ahead of time
Preparation is the key to success, right? If you want to make the most of your time when you have your students, get your materials ready beforehand. Before a group session or before I head out to do speedy speech, I make copies and paperclip each student’s probe sheets or cards together. Then I binder clip that group’s materials all together. That way I can just grab and go for each group.
SECRET TIP: Make 2 copies of everything while you’re at it! This will make it tons easier for next time you progress monitor your groups!
2. Do a 5 minute conversation test
Before I start taking data, I like to get a quick gage on where my students are at informally if their goals lend themselves to it. I usually try do this in my first therapy sessions of the year and call it “observational data.” It’s easier to get a real idea of where my students’ articulation skills/fluency skills/grammar skills are at when I’m casually talking to them in informal conversations without my clipboard. Plus, it might help give me a better idea on where to start in measuring their goals.
3. Take data for one student at a time
Ok, you might be thinking that a little data on each student is better than only having data for one student. Here’s the thing. You are more likely to keep your sanity and brain in tact if you have a systemized approach. In a group, instead of having each student say one or two targets at a time then moving to the next student, I work with one student and make sure to complete all the data on at least one objective/goal before moving on. This is a great time to pull out your articulation centers, get a craft going, or have some independent play time.
4. Don’t try and take all the data in one session
If you want clear data towards their goals or objectives, you want to make sure that you are thoroughly covering all parts of the goal.
For example, let’s say your goal is Sara will produce /sh/ and /ch/ in all positions of sentences with 90% accuracy over three sessions. You will need data on each sound and each position at the sentence level. I try and get 10 trials for each position (10 initial, 10 medial, 10 final). I like 10 because I feel it’s low enough to make use of my time and high enough to give me a good read on their ability. If you also have multiple sounds for Timmy, Lily, and Matt in that 30 minute group, it might be hard to hit all objectives for all the students. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to push a few students/goals to the next session. No biggie! At least you’ll have some clear, thorough data!
SECRET TIP: I like to give extra homework that day, since they might not have gotten many trials in!
5. Find your system
It’s important to find a system that works for you. That includes materials and products that can make your data collecting easier. I use these Baseline Data Tools for my articulation and language students. They are print and go half-sheets and cover lots of goals or objectives for most of my caseload.
If you like variety for progress monitoring, do a search on TPT and see what you can find! Take your favorite parts of several products to make a system that works for you! Sometimes I like to keep track of all of the students that I’ve completed baselines for using a data sheet like this:
This way, everything is in one place and I can see exactly what goals or objectives I still need to tally. You can grab this data tracker for FREE along with lots of other free resources in my exclusive library. Just sign up using this form. 🙂
Note: Another key aspect of taking clear and objective data is having MEASURABLE goals and objectives on your students’ IEPs. If you inherit an IEP (which happens a lot at the beginning of the school year) and the student’s goal is not adequately measurable, you might want to consider amending or reconvening their IEP to make a clearer goal.