Digital Learning, School Leadership

Tracking Student Progress

We track data all of the time in our personal lives like weight, steps, running speeds (maybe stealing those crowns on Strava…), and even how well we mow the lawn. This tracking is part of our motivation. So, how does this translate into our classrooms?

Tracking student progress, according to Marzano, us about communicating a student’s progress towards mastery of a topic. When kids can see they are going in the right direction, their motivation increases. John Hattie shows an efficacy rate of d = 1.33 [that’s really good] when students self-report grades. This means students predict how well they will perform on an assessment. The more they have the opportunity to predict, the more accurate their predictions become. However, they can’t predict their scores if they are analyzing how well they are doing.

Here’s how I’ve done it in my classroom.

At the conclusion of nearly every class, students complete an exit ticket. They receive their exit tickets back during the first five minutes of our next class. The exit ticket has specific feedback for them. They then record their exit tickets on their Exit Ticket Tracking Sheet. This includes the topic, date, and a comment like I need help with [blank], I completely understand it, etc. These exit tickets at first were on paper and they handed them to me on the way out the door. I wanted them to understand first and foremost the value of an exit ticket was to show me what they learned or need, not to get points or a grade. I then used Google Forms as a method of administering exit tickets. I gave specific feedback regarding their answers and e-mail the results to the students by our next class. They continued to record their results on their tracking sheets. (I also recorded their data in my electronic version.)

words from studentsExit tickets are something of a passion of mine once I learned how to leverage the information they gave me and my students. This wasn’t always the case. There was  a time when I only considered it a mandate and annoying because I truly did not understand what their purpose was. BUT NOW, I encourage every teacher I work with to use exit tickets because it’s one of the best forms of daily data if used correctly. The July 2018 edition of the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education includes an article that explains briefly how using lessons that are refined over and over again using data benefit the teacher and student. The study mentions Nuthall (2004) who has much research that explains the value of collecting continuous data on each student (Cai). Exit tickets are manageable way for teachers to collect continuous data on their students. Since I’ve been teaching Algebra 1, both a Texas STAAR tested subject and required for graduation, tracking my students progress is especially important. I didn’t stop with exit tickets though [but that’s for a different post].

I met Dwight Goodwin (@scout2i) and Ross Garison (@garisonr) [aka Team Awesome] this week and they gave me a new idea for kids tracking their progress. It’s an excellent way to students to track their own progress if they have regular access to a device.

Take a look at this Google Sheet Student Tracking. If you’re able to have students track their progress on a spreadsheet, the spreadsheet can automatically create a graph for them! Of course you could have them create graphs by hand. It ultimately depends on your goals for students.

I don’t think my methods are perfect, but they are continually refined and initially founded on great research. Students need meaningful, timely feedback. Collecting and grading loads of homework isn’t the way to provide that. Implementing methods like Exit Tickets and Tracking Sheets are just some of the tools that do allow for appropriate feedback needed for our students to be successful. I hope every student leaves my classroom successful and confident in math, not remembering the loads of ridiculous homework they had to complete.


Cai, J., Morris, A., Hohensee, C., Hwang, S., Robison, V., & Hiebert, J. (2018, July). Using data to understand and improve students’ learning: Empowering teachers and researchers through building and using a knowledge base. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(4), 362-372.

Keeler, A. (2017, Feb 10). Give me three for feedback [web log comment]. Retrieved from

Newman, R. (2002). How self-regulated learners cope with academic difficulty: The role of adaptive help seeking. Theory Into Practice, 41(2), 132-138.

Anything and everything Marzano and Hattie

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