Five tips for monitoring progress on behavior IEPs

Three multiracial children looking out schoolbus window

An annual meeting is held with parents, educators, and other stakeholders for students who receive special education services. The purpose of the meeting, known generally as an IEP meeting, is to review individual progress from the previous year and to set academic and behavioral goals for the coming year. Additional IEP meetings can be held throughout the year, if needed, to change part or all of the agreements made at any prior meeting. During the meeting, the student’s teachers must provide data showing how well the learner has progressed and report areas that need improvement.

If a student exhibits behaviors that interfere with his learning or the learning of others, he will most likely have an IEP to help him learn school-appropriate, positive behaviors to replace conduct that causes problematic issues. In order for a student to have a behavior IEP, he must have had a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) to determine the functions of the behaviors observed, and a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) must be developed. The BIP clarifies what behaviors need replacing, provides strategies for teaching and reinforcing the desired conduct, and designates appropriate consequences for when behavior objectives aren’t met. If a student has a BIP and exhibits behaviors specified in it, the school and district management plan are precluded by the consequences outlined in the BIP. The school/district code of conduct may not be used in these instances, so it is important that the IEP team is certain that a student needs a BIP and a behavior IEP before putting them in place.

To be able to accurately report academic progress, data must be taken as students perform tasks and take tests. The same is true for reporting behavioral progress. School staff must take regular data, documenting how well strategies work, how often students exhibit desired replacement behaviors, and how often targeted behaviors occur. Armed with this information, progress can be determined and shared with the student, staff, and parents.

Consider the following suggestions when implementing a behavior IEP and taking data to determine progress.

  1. To implement behavior plans, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) needs to be incorporated. PBIS emphasizes proactive support, using approaches designed to reduce the occurrence of problematic behavior, allow students to have as much autonomy as possible at school, and include a large range of strategies. PBIS includes school-wide, classroom, small group, and individual supports to help teach behavior replacements instead of only applying punishment. More information can be found about PBIS on-line, and many schools and districts have trainings and a PBIS plan in place.
  2. Data collection is imperative today. Without data to support a decision, reports are conjecture with no substance. After collecting data on behaviors and how strategies are working, choices can be made about future interventions. If over time a strategy isn’t effective, it can be eliminated and replaced. If behavior improves, it’s a signal that strategies are appropriate. With no data, often teachers either keep using a method that doesn’t work or give up on a strategy before effectiveness can be determined. Small successes can be measured so staff, teachers, and parents are encouraged to keep on working for the goal.
  3. Here are a couple of examples of forms for taking data on behavior IEPs.
    Name___________________   Dates: From_______________ To ________________ 

    Class Periods/Date Behavior Objective Behavior Objective Behavior Objective # Times Exhibited Target Behavior Strategy Used/Effectiveness





    Student Name Date Time/Subject/

    Class Period

    IEP Behavior Observed Strategy Used Result
    Minnie Mouse
    Fred Flintstone
    SpongeBob Squarepants


  4. Now that data has been collected, it must be organized, summarized, and analyzed. Using the first form above, all the appropriate and inappropriate behaviors can be counted, organized by IEP objective, time, class period, etc. A pattern of the student’s behavior might be noticed or possibly the time of day when most behaviors occur might become evident. Most importantly, the information can be used to report behavior progress and strategy/intervention effectiveness, and then an informed decision can be made about what to do next.
  5. Once the data is organized, it can be transferred onto students’ IEPs as updates to be reported in IEP Meetings and sent home periodically as progress reports.

When taking data, remember to be specific. Saying, “Minnie Mouse had a fit today,” doesn’t make clear what occurred and is judgmental. Saying, “Minnie Mouse threw her books on the floor, and walked out of the room,” lets stakeholders know exactly what happened. The same is true when making a positive behavior report. Saying, “Minnie Mouse had a good day,” doesn’t report what her appropriate behaviors were. Saying, “Minnie Mouse stayed in her seat 75% of instructional time, stayed on task, and completed her assignments,” is factual and concise.

It’s a good idea to meet periodically with all staff who work with a student who needs intensive behavior interventions. It’s also important to gather data from that group of people to be incorporated into one report. Schools and/or district special education departments often have processes and forms available to use for collecting and analyzing behavior data. The school psychologist, special education counselor, or person who does evaluations can be helpful in developing a Functional Behavior Assessment and a Behavior Intervention Plan. Objectives from the BIP can be used for IEP behavior objectives.

Some districts use an electronic behavior program, such as Review360, to create positive objectives and collect and aggregate data. Be sure to find out if one is available so charts don’t have to be created from scratch, and data doesn’t have to be analyzed by hand.

A greater feeling of professionalism and confidence is found when you know that reports are backed by facts and data rather than by conjecture, estimation, and assumption. It’s better for you and the students.