RTI Source Blog

by User Not Found | Jan 12, 2011

Progress-Monitoring:  Which Instrument?


by Susan L. Hall, EdD


In my last blog I provided an overview of one of the more critical topics in RTI―progress monitoring.  Based on questions from teachers in the field, I prepared a list of the top five progress-monitoring questions. In this blog, I’ll tackle the question: Which assessment instrument should I use?

Another way to ask this question might be: Should I use the curriculum-based measure to monitor progress since that’s what we used for benchmark screening? The answer is “It depends.” The main factor the answer depends upon is the skill that is the focus of instruction in the intervention group. The purpose of progress monitoring is to measure whether the student’s reading is improving as a result of the instruction he’s receiving. It’s impossible to tell whether any improvements are related to the core reading instruction or to the intervention instruction, but does it matter? I suggest that it doesn’t. If what we’re doing is working, then we just have to keep doing it and make sure that the rate of progress is sufficient. We want our assessment to highlight any student who is not making progress from the combination of Tier I and Tier II or III. Poor progress means that it’s time to make a change in the instruction the student is receiving.

So the key is to match the assessment instrument as closely as possible with the skill of the intervention group. Some grade 2 and above teachers assume that they should always use the oral reading fluency part of the CBM as the progress monitoring tool, but that just isn’t the case. Let’s think about it using an analogy. Imagine that a novice golfer is losing strokes whenever his ball lands in a sand trap and he asks his instructor for some help with this. His instructor just spent an hour demonstrating the ideal technique for pitching balls out of a sand trap followed by giving the golfer an opportunity to practice using his sand wedge to pitch 100 balls out of a sand trap. Now it was time to see if he got it. So the instructor sent the golfer out to play a round of 18 holes on a course that had one sand trap and then sat down to look at his data. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a mismatch between the instrument and the skill he’s attempting to measure. The assessment gave too few data points on the exact skill they had practiced.

The same is true for reading. Using an oral reading passage to assess the progress of a student in a long vowel silent-e group is an ineffective measurement tool because there may be only one or two words that contain this pattern out of the 100 words he read. It’s important to match the instrument to the skill. The table below shows how to do this.


Reading Component

Intervention Group

Skill Focus

Appropriate Assessment






Fluency with Connected Text

Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) (DIBELS or AIMSweb)


Multisyllable Words

Phonics Screener – multisyllable word section

Vowel Teams

Phonics Screener – vowel team section

Long Vowel Silent-e

Phonics Screener – long vowel silent-e section

Phonological Awareness

Initial Sound at the Phoneme Level

Initial Sound Fluency (ISF) (DIBELS)

Syllable Segmentation

Phonological Awareness Screener – syllable section

Letter Naming

Letter Names

Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) (DIBELS or AIMSweb)



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