The Principal's Role in Students Progress Monitoring

by Lee Anne Sulzberger, M.Ed.

The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) has identified the development of "assessment and accountability systems to monitor student progress" (ISLLC, 2008, p. 14) as a key function of school leaders. Cotton (2003) notes that "successful principals ensure that there are systematic procedures for monitoring student progress at both schoolwide and classroom levels" (p. 71). Student progress monitoring, characterized by the use of "quick, brief probes designed to gauge progress toward grade-level goals and to fine-tune instruction as it is delivered" (Virginia Department of Education, 2007, p. 25), can provide schools with a rich data source as they seek to improve educational outcomes for all students.
What can principals do to support the use of student progress monitoring in their schools? First, instructional decision-making based on data for the purpose of continuous improvement should be part of the school culture. Schmoker (1999) notes that data are "the signposts on the road to school improvement.... and should be an essential feature of how schools do business" (p. 36). Principals can encourage meaningful schoolwide conversations about data and student progress by (a) creating and guiding a data team that is responsible for gathering and organizing data into user-friendly formats for teacher use, and (b) setting up collaborative structures (e.g., grade-level or content-area meetings) where student achievement data and the implications for instruction are discussed regularly (Boudett & Moody, 2005).

Principals can further support effective use of student progress monitoring by:

  • Introducing the concept of student progress monitoring and stressing the importance of responding with a change in instruction if necessary,

  • Helping teachers understand that student progress monitoring has grown out of previous practices in education (e.g., formative assessment) and is not a new initiative, and

  • Helping school personnel secure resources and professional development needed to effectively use student progress monitoring. (VDOE, 2007,p. 45)

By embedding student progress monitoring within the context of a school that uses data to make instructional decisions and by establishing collaborative structures that allow teachers to talk about the impact of instruction on student learning, principals will help to ensure that the school is using effective strategies to meet student needs.

For additional information on student progress monitoring, visit Intervention Central ( features free probes and other tools for educators. Further, visit the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) at  for comprehensive information about current research and effective instructional practices. Finally, to learn more about school data teams, refer to Collaborative Leadership: Creating and Guiding a Data Team to Support School Improvement in the November/December 2007 issue of Link Lines [pdf].


Boudett, K. P., & Moody, L. (2005). Organizing for collaborative work. In K. P. Boudett, E. A. City, & R. J. Murnane (Eds.), Datawise: A step-by-step guide to using assessment results to improve teaching and learning (pp. 11-28). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium. (2008). Educational leadership policy standards 2008. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.

Cotton, K. (2003). Principals and student achievement: What the research says. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Schmoker,  M. (1999). Results: The key to continuous school improvement (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Virginia Department of Education. (2007). Responsive instruction: Refining our work of teaching all children. Richmond, VA: Author.

Date: November/December 2008