Northeastern Professors Receive $1.6 Million Grant for Student Progress Tracking Program

The program will help teachers monitor students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $1.6 million grant to two Northeastern University professors who are designing a student progress tracking program.

The web-based program will be specifically tailored to elementary school students with emotional or behavioral disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression, all conditions that make students more likely to struggle in the classroom or run into disciplinary problems. The as-yet-unnamed program will prompt teachers to answer questions about kids’ academic and psychological progress at predetermined times, then display the data in ways that make it easy to track and visualize how students are doing.

Northeastern’s Robert Volpe and Amy Briesch, both professors in the university’s applied psychology department, are leading the project in conjunction with a psychology professor from Ohio University. Right now, the researchers are preparing to test their program in 775 kindergarten through third grade classrooms in Massachusetts and Ohio. Volpe says teacher feedback will play heavily into the final design, as will input from parents, school administrators, counselors, and school psychologists.

That teacher input could be key, as classroom progress tracking is currently done mainly through long, handwritten surveys—paperwork that many overworked teachers simply don’t have time or motivation to fill out. Volpe told Northeastern that the new program would both ease teachers’ workloads and provide more dynamic portraits of student performance:

“These older assess­ments only pro­vide snap­shot pic­tures. What you really need to mea­sure a child’s response to inter­ven­tion is a moving pic­ture to observe their response to inter­ven­tion over time,” said Volpe.