{Tips for Special Educators} Data Collection

Today, I want to talk to you about data collection. I love data. It's one of my favorite things about being a special educator. I love being able to see exactly where my students are at, the progress they have made, and what I need to change to help them learn. Not only is data a requirement for any teacher, I take data on pretty much every program that is run in my classroom, regardless of whether it aligns with an IEP goal. One of the main reasons I do this is because I am not the only person teaching in my classroom. My paraprofessionals and my peer tutors provide instruction. However, I am still the teacher, so I am responsible for each program and each student's learning. Without data, I don't know how my students are doing. There are tons of ways to take data and streamline your data collection. Here are a few tips & tricks!

Coffee mug and laptop with a graph on the screen. Text says "Data collection tips for special educators"

1. GRAPH: 

I am a visual learner. When I look at graphed data, I can quickly see whether the student is progressing. I can see if a goal or benchmark has been mastered. I can see when a student is not progressing and then I can take a closer look at the data to see what needs to be changed. I graph (and require others to graph) immediately after completing a program. In each data binder, I have a yellow graph and a white data sheet for each program. When I finish recording my data, I flip the page and quickly graph it. It takes less than 30 seconds and makes my life so much easier!  This graph is my absolute favorite. It's super simple, editable, and easy to read. You can grab a copy here.


Decide on an organization system. I use individual binders in my classroom but have seen teachers who use clipboards, Google forms, etc. It doesn't matter what your system is, as long as it's organized and it works in your classroom!

Here's what I do- Each summer, I prepare my student data collection binders. I create data sheets and graphs for each program. This saves me so much time once school starts because I can go in, train paras on programs, hand them an already made data sheet, and they can start teaching. Each student binder is organized by class period with program graphs, data sheets and program materials (like worksheets). I use these little post it tabs if there are multiple programs being run within the class period so that it's easy to flip between data sheets. I also put a pencil pouch in each binder with a pen, a pencil, and a calculator. Finally, each student's binder has a copy of their progress report with all IEP goals written on it. This helps for progress monitoring (see tip #4).


I've found that adding as much information as possible on the actual data sheet helps greatly with fidelity in my classroom. This is especially important for data that are collected across the day with multiple staff, like behavior data, motor, etc.  On the top of the data sheet, I include the student's IEP goal and objectives, implementation instructions, prompt hierarchy, and data key.


Align your data collection system with your progress monitoring. When I write an IEP goal, I also design the data sheet so I can be sure that I can accurately take data that aligns with the criteria in my goal. For example, if I write the mastery criteria for 4 out of 5 trials, then I make sure my data sheet has a spot to record all 5 trials.

I also include a progress report in each student's data binder. You can grab a copy here. Each month, I average my student's data for each goal and record it on the progress report. When it's time for parent-teacher conferences, I enter the averages into the typed version of the progress report, add a comment, and send it home. It's quick and easy and makes my life so much easier when it's time to send home progress!


Finally, and most importantly, train your paras to take data!!! They are there to help, and data collection is a huge part of your job. Train them! They can do it! And it will make your life so much easier!

Data collection and progress monitoring can be so stressful. I hope these tips help you get a good system in place! Good luck this school year!

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