10 tips to staying on top of data collection in your life skills special education classroom

They teach us about collecting data and documentation in our graduate courses, but they don’t prepare us for how much data we need and what exactly needs to be documented. The answer is, EVERYTHING. In our profession, everything needs to be documented. Documentation and data support any statements that you make regarding a student. The data is what supports whatever claim you are making, whether it is a positive or negative one. The numbers don’t lie. Data also helps us analyze student strengths and needs more closely to adapt their education plan to best meet their needs. Here are 10 tips to stay on top of your data collection game. Use all or just a few, depending on what you need!

Here are some free resources to help you get started. Click on the image below to go to the download page.

IEP Data Collection


  • Create a binder for each student where you can keep all documents pertaining to that student organized. Create tabs and keep information like: IEP, progress reports, medical & health Info, data collection sheets, work samples, parent emails, other important information. This should be your go to place for student info. It also helps to be able to bring this to meetings and to have hard copies of your data to present to parents and the team.
  • Special Ed teachers have A LOT of responsibilities. You can’t do it all, all the time. Set priorities. Decide what is important to you as a teacher in your classroom. Keep that as your top priority.
  • Learn to lean on your team sometimes too. Ask for help if you need it. We are all here for each other. Support one another. Working as a team also lessens your stress if you can divvy up the workload and not continue to reinvent the wheel.
  1. CLEAR and CONCISE DATA SHEETS (make data collection easy)
  • Be sure your data sheets are specific to that data you are collecting. Make sure you are recording what you say you are recording. Have a different sheet for every goal.
  • Make sure the way you are collecting data is easy. Are you able to use Yes/No? Just enter in a % of correct answers? The more specific and easy it is to take data, the better!
  • Be sure to not mix your data sheets. Use different sheets for every goal. Some goals may need more information in the data collection. The more specific and clear you can be, the more helpful it’ll be when it comes time to present information and create new goals/objectives.
  • The more help you can get with data collection, the more you are able to do in your classroom. Train your staff to record data so they can assist you with this. Make sure you are clear and go through the data sheets step by step to ensure they are taking data the way it should be taken (taking data on the wrong thing or doing in incorrectly means NO DATA, which we know is very detrimental to educational planning).
  1. REVIEW DATA to summarize how students are doing and if any adaptations are needed
  • Make sure before creating new IEP goals or going into meetings, you’ve taken the time to review the data. Have numbers and percentages to make the data easier to understand. This will help whatever claim you are making about a student’s progress or lack of progress.
  1. INCLUDE ##s data in PROGRESS REPORTS so parents understand where your comments are coming from, back yourself up.
  • Just as stated above, numbers and percentages make it easier to understand. This helps parents get a clear picture of where their child is performing. It also leaves very little room for questions if you are able to clearly communicate exactly where their child is in terms of levels and percentages.
  1. DAILY NOTES (simple way to remember things that happened each day)
  • It’s impossible to document everything little thing about each day but if things out of the ordinary happen, jot it down. Have a notebook on your desk, one page per day and jot down anything out of the ordinary that happened. Keep it for your records but it’s a great resource to have when you need to look back on a specific day about a specific student. You could also have a monthly calendar that you just jot little notes down here and there. It only takes a few seconds to jot things down but you’ll thank yourself if you need to remember something later.
  1. KEEP ALL EMAILS FROM PARENTS… and well, anybody.
  • Create folders in your inbox for each student and keep all emails pertaining to that student. This helps you stay organized.
  • You never know when you’ll need to check back on something, so best practices is to keep everything!!!
  • If you’re old school, you can print these off and put them into your student binder. Either way works, just don’t get rid of these!
  1. IF YOU HAVE WORK SAMPLES to support your claims, these also count as data, so KEEP THEM!!!
  • Keep whatever work samples you can. These can be actual worksheets your students completed. If you do verbal assessments, the sheet in which you recorded their responses or choices they made or pointed to also count as samples.
  • It’s important to keep anything that can support what you say about your student. Work samples are also documentation.

These are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to collecting data and documentation. As Sped Teachers, this is one of the biggest parts of our jobs. It’s important to stay organized and have some sort of system. This will add to your classroom running more smoothly.

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