STEP - Strategic Tracking of Educational Progress
Effective progress monitoring needs to be a top priority in any educational setting, but especially within international schools. Here, we’ll explore why it’s so important and how STEP can make it easier.
Diversity and collective global experiences are the foundation of international school education. Students, parents, and teachers often flourish in the diversity that an international school affords. The varied backgrounds of its community members foster multicultural and global learning, with exceptional curriculums and learning objectives that support children as they prepare for today’s global world.
But, with all its immeasurable and invaluable benefits, an international education comes with its own set of challenges that we must address to maximize student success.
I have been a teacher for over twenty years in three different countries, teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades and extensively with K-12 students who have additional learning needs that fall outside of the general education curriculum.
Throughout my tenure, I have seen families and school staff struggle to clearly and concisely communicate students’ needs — especially when students transfer from one school to another or progress from grade to grade. Without a contemporary, comprehensive, and collaborative tool for tracking and monitoring student progress, essential information about students is often lost.
Progress Monitoring Promotes Student Success
Over the last forty-five years, a significant body of research has indicated that monitoring student progress over time ensures that:
- Students learn more
- Curriculum decisions are better informed
- Students become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses (Deno, 2003; Fuchs, Deno, & Mirkin, 1984; Good & Jefferson, 1998)
In other words, monitoring student progress helps them succeed.
Without this data, educators cannot make informed curriculum decisions, accurately pass information to future educators, or clearly communicate students’ needs. Ultimately, parents and educators cannot rely on the notion that students will improve over time without consistent monitoring and measured adjustments. We must recognize that while progress is possible, it's not inevitable.
Progress monitoring is as rewarding as it is demanding, and unfortunately, it’s an area where international schools particularly struggle. The diversity of learning environments, students, and staff, coupled with the sometimes-transient nature of international school attendance, compound the issue.
If your family has ever moved to a new school, you will likely remember the transition as a time of uncertainty. Even if your child attends the same school for their entire educational career, there is a period of adjustment from one year to the next, as the new teacher gets to know your child and their needs. In these times of transition, unified and informed progress monitoring is essential to meeting students’ needs, and because of the unique experiences of the international school student, consistent and precise progress monitoring should be considered a top priority.
The Challenges of Tracking and Identifying International Student Needs
Last year, I surveyed thirteen learning support teachers worldwide and asked how their international schools kept track of student goals and progress within their Learning Support programs. Only one teacher reported a comprehensive and teacher-friendly system. Eighty-five percent reported that they wished their school had a platform beyond Google Docs and spreadsheets.
Further investigation indicated that there are three obstacles to progress monitoring in international schools:
- Data tracking is an additional demand on teachers’ time
- Teachers do not have an easy-to-use tool to track data and set goals
- Teachers do not have an efficient and appropriate method of reporting their findings
An Efficient, Reliable & Valid Tool for International School Educators and Families
As a teacher, I recognize the value and challenges of progress monitoring. In an effort towards due diligence for my students, I would create a new and improved data collection system before the start of each school year. I was constantly trying to develop a method that was efficient, reliable, valid, and met my top three priorities:
1. That my students had specific and measurable goals
2. That I could collect data on these goals in a timely and accurate manner
3. That I could communicate this data clearly to all relevant parties
After years of experimenting, I developed a bank of comprehensive goals and learning objectives. Once I created this bank, I could draw on it, reducing time spent on establishing goals and objectives and improving the quality of my goal and objective setting.
With my goal and objective bank established, I turned my attention to data collection and communication. Like so many teachers, I dabbled with customized spreadsheets but found them time-consuming and cumbersome. I wanted something that could be user-friendly for parents and educators, tech-forward, visual, and secure. Fortunately, I was introduced to the Unitus TI platform, a multidisciplinary cloud publishing partner. I have now teamed up with Unitus TI to create STEP: Strategic Tracking of Educational Progress.
A STEP to Success
STEP is a subscription-based service delivered through the UnitusTI cloud. Together, we created a solution for progress monitoring that draws on my enhanced goals and objectives bank, their expertise in data collection, and the newest technology. We created STEP to improve student transitions, achievement, and growth by empowering educators, parents, and therapists to establish appropriate goals and objectives, monitor progress over time, collaborate with team members, and enhance curriculums based on real-time, visual data.
STEP simply plugs into a school’s existing learning management system, providing a seamless process to access student goals and progress. Teachers with access to STEP can utilize its bank of over 5,000 goals and objectives, create their own customized goals, easily track data, and instantly see and securely share visual representations of students’ progress over time.
STEP also allows educational teams, outside service providers, and parents to communicate about student progress within a secure network. One of the greatest highlights of STEP is that it provides both parents and educators a clear picture of student progress in real-time. This picture can also support families in transition, and as they move from one grade, school, or country to the next, student data can come with them.
Going forward, we are working with the international school community to introduce STEP to support students and families in a mutual effort to maximize student success. We provide interested schools with a hands-on demonstration and the ability to ask questions not only of me, the author of the goal bank, but the extensive IT masterminds behind the UnitusTI platform as well.
If you think STEP would benefit your child or school, please feel free to let your school know about our program. And, as always, contact me with any questions you have.
Deno, S. L. (2003). Developments in curriculum-based measurement. Journal of Special Education, 37, 184–192.
Fuchs, L. S., Deno, S., & Mirkin, P. (1984). Effects of frequent curriculum-based measurement and evaluation on pedagogy, student achievement, and student awareness of learning. American Educational Research Journal, 21, 449–460.
Good, R., & Jefferson, G. (1998). Contemporary perspectives on curriculum-based measurement validity. In M. R. Shinn (Ed.), Advanced applications of curriculum-based measurement (pp. 61–88). New York: Guilford Press.
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