IEP’s: Well Written Goals

IEPs goals are the part of the IEP that determine whether or not a child has made progress.  After assessments (formal or informal) are given, the “Present Levels” portion of the IEP is written.  The team will then use the “Present Levels” part of the IEP to determine which services are appropriate, which modifications or accommodations are needed and which goals are most beneficial.  You can view a much more detailed article about the IEPs here: IEPs: An Overview.

Paperwork www.autismmom.netWhen considering goals, members of the IEP team (this may be the school psychologist, the behaviorist, the OT/PT, the speech pathologist or the special education teacher) will use the student’s “Present Levels,” as a guide.  How will a parent know if the goal is appropriately written?  I looked at Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide By, Pam Wright and Pete Wright  to see their guidelines.

They noted that goals should be SMART:

1. Specific:

The goals and objectives should be specific, not vague.  They should target a particular functional behavior or academic goal.  For example: Joe will write a paragraph with a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting details and a conclusion NOT: Joe will write a paragraph.

2. Measurable:

The goal should be measurable.  This can mean that either someone can observe it and measure its frequency or test it and measure percent correct.  Adding on to Joe’s goal: Joe will write a paragraph with a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting details and a conclusion with 80% accuracy as measured by teacher charted observations.  NOT: Joe will write a paragraph very well.

3. Use Action Words:

They should show the direction of the behavior, the area of need or the level of achievement (at grade level, without assistance etc.).  Adding on to Joe’s Goal:  Joe will write a paragraph with a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting details and a conclusion without teacher assistance, with 80% accuracy as measured by teacher charted observations. NOT: Joe will write a paragraph very well and neatly.

4. Realistic and Relevant:

The goals should be pertinent and useful.  They should also be justifiable through the present levels portion of the document.  If the goal comes out of left field and has no bearing on anything in the child’s academic performance, it shouldn’t be included.  Goals shouldn’t be tied to a specific curriculum or specific teacher because if the child moves and the curriculum differs at the new school, the goal will not be attainable.  Joe’s goal is realistic and relevant because his “Present Levels” indicate that he currently writes 2 sentences, without assistance that adhere to a single topic: Joe will write a paragraph with a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting details and a conclusion without teacher assistance, with 80% accuracy as measured by teacher charted observations.  NOT: Joe will write a paragraph very well and neatly using the “Step Up To Writing” program.

5. Time-Limited:

The overall goal will have a specific deadline to be completed.  In certain situations, short term objectives will be written to make sure that the goal is completed.  Ask your child’s IEP team if you would like them to write short term objectives.  Not all students need to  have them written in their IEPs (I always wrote them for all students because it kept me very goal oriented as a teacher). Here is Joe’s overall goal: By 1/24/2014, Joe will write a paragraph with a topic sentence, at least 3 supporting details and a conclusion without teacher assistance, with 80% accuracy as measured by teacher charted observations. NOT: By next year, Joe will write a paragraph very well and neatly using the “Step Up To Writing” program.

These guidelines usually eliminate any problems with IEP goals.  Remember, IEP’s aren’t written in stone and can be changed even after the yearly meeting.  If you ever have any specific questions, contact your child’s case manager.  If something needs to be changed call an IEP meeting to discuss the changes.  Make sure somebody is taking notes so that your concerns are noted.  Most educators and therapists are happy to help you in any way they can.  Just stay involved!