If your student has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and is receiving special education or related services, they have measurable goals and objectives IEP team developed targeted to meet your student’s individual needs. At AdvocacySD, we call the IEP goals the “meat” of the IEP: the IEP goals are what your student works on for a year which drives what they work on the following year. In this post, we will break down how IEP goals are developed, give you IEP goal examples and IEP baseline examples.
Why Are IEP Goals Important?
To a large extent, IEP baselines and goals are the crux of the IEP: they determine what the team is working on with your student for the year. They are also important because IEP goals drive services. The number of IEP goals, the types of IEP goals and everything IEP goal-related will help you and the site team determine what services and to what extent those services are needed for your student to receive educational benefit.
How Are IEP Goals Developed?
You may hear a lot in an IEP meeting about data. Why? Because data drives IEP goals and IEP goals drive services. Data collection can take many forms: observation, formal assessments (like the Woodcock Johnson), informal classroom assessments or literal tally marks. That information should then be put into the Present Levels of Performance section of your IEP which should be part of every annual and triennial IEP meeting agenda. From there, the IEP team can identify areas of need. Those areas of need become IEP goals.
Let’s use an IEP reading goal as an example. Let’s say the special education teacher or education specialist uses a Dolch word list to assess your student’s site word reading skills to develop an IEP reading goal. The informal assessment shows your 3rd grade student is only able to successfully read the first 10 words of the 2nd grade word list. This information should go into the academic section of Present Levels of Performance and now has become an area of need. The team should be proposing an IEP reading goal in this area.
What are the Parts of an IEP Goal?
All IEP goals have a format that is pretty simple (albeit a bit wordy):
- By when (ie annual review)
- Under what conditions (ie given a calculator)
- Who (student)
- Will do what (the skill the student will be working toward mastering)
- To what degree accuracy (always a percentage)
- On how many opportunities (ie 3 of 5 trials)
- As measured how (how the goal is going to be measured: data collection, observation, student work samples).
Let’s use our IEP reading goal example from above:
By annual review, when presented the word on a notecard, Orion will read all 46 words on the Dolch Sight Word 2nd Grade word list with 80% accuracy on 3 of 5 opportunities as measured by staff data collection.
Does the goal have all the components?
- By when: annual review
- Under what conditions: when presented the word on a notecard
- Who: Orion
- Will do what: read all 46 2nd grade Dolch Sight Words
- To what degree accuracy: 80%
- On how many opportunities: 3 of 5
- As measured how: staff data collection
If all of these components are in your IEP goal, you are off to a good start.
What is an IEP Baseline?
The baseline of an IEP goal tells you where your student is performing that skill at this moment. From there, you will be able to see if your student is making progress on their IEP goal when you receive progress reports. If there is no IEP baseline or the IEP baseline is inaccurate, you will have no idea whether or not your student is making progress toward meeting their IEP goal.
Going back to our IEP reading goal example above, if the IEP baseline says your student is performing at 30% accuracy and the goal is for 80% accuracy, you’ll be able to tell how much progress your student makes throughout the year.
IEP Reading Goal Example: By annual review, when presented the word on a notecard, Orion will read all 46 words on the Dolch Sight Word 2nd Grade word list with 80% accuracy on 3 of 5 opportunities as measured by staff data collection.
IEP Baseline Example: When presented the word on a notecard, Orion reads all 46 words on the Dolch Sight Word 2nd Grade word list with 30% accuracy on 3 of 5 opportunities as measured by staff data collection.
This IEP Baseline makes the IEP goal measurable because you will know that if Orion’s percentage of accuracy increases from 30% that he is making progress.
What Should I Look For In An IEP Goal?
AdvocacySD educational advocates are sticklers for IEP goals. If IEP goals are not measurable then no progress can be reported. If no actual progress is reported then you will have no way of telling whether or not your student’s IEP is helping them meet their learning needs by their working on their IEP goals and objectives. .
- Is the IEP goal an area of need for my student?
How do you know? Look at Present Levels of Performance. This is where the team has documented the data that shows how your student is doing now. You don’t want them using data from last year or something they’re predicting. You want them using data that is current now. Using our IEP reading goal and baseline example above: Orion’s teacher shows he is only reading a 2nd grade word list with 30% accuracy. This is an area of need for Orion so the team should be proposing an IEP reading goal.
- Does the IEP baseline relate to the IEP goal?
Sometimes staff will write too much information in the IEP baseline which makes it difficult to tell where your student is performing. Sometimes they will write information that, while helpful, doesn’t actually relate to the IEP goal. This is important because if your IEP baseline is inaccurate, you won’t be able to tell how much progress your student makes throughout the year.
Here’s a different IEP reading goal example with an IEP baseline example with irrelevant information: :
- IEP Goal Example: By 3/22, given picture cues, Josiah will read ten words on a teacher-created first grade high-frequency word list with 80% accuracy on 3 of 5 trials as measured by teacher data collection.
- IEP Baseline Example: Josiah can point to pictures of words with 50% accuracy.
This IEP baseline information, while helpful and somewhat interesting, doesn’t actually have anything to do with the IEP goal. The IEP goal is for Josiah to read words, not point to pictures. Be on the lookout for this common mistake!
- Is the IEP goal measurable?
Just like with the IEP baseline, the IEP goal has to be measurable. This means there needs to be a percentage of accuracy written into the IEP goal and the IEP baseline.. Look at our IEP reading goal example again:
IEP Goal Example: By 3/22, given picture cues, Josiah will read ten words on a teacher-created first grade high-frequency word list with 80% accuracy on 3 of 5 trials as measured by teacher data collection.
Josiah is supposed to be progressing to 80% accuracy. Sometimes staff will tell you that simply putting “3 of 5” trials means the student is supposed to achieve 60% accuracy. This is not correct. The IEP goal is clearly written so that Josiah will meet the IEP goal if he reads the words with 80% accuracy on 3 of 5 trials. He can read 100% on trial and 30% on another; but so long as he reads 80% on the other three trials, he meets the IEP goal.
- Is your student working on a grade level standard, something linguistically-related or another area?
Underneath the IEP goal itself or somewhere close by, there will be boxes for the provider to check indicating the grade level standard the student is working toward by having that IEP goal. For speech/language IEP goals, the box ‘linguistically appropriate” might be checked. Transition IEP goals might have different boxes checked as well. The bottom line is that some box must be checked indicating the overarching area in which the IEP goal is written.
- Does the IEP goal show who is responsible for implementing it?
I know this sounds like nitpicking but it’s important. If the IEP goal does not state which professional is responsible for implementing the IEP goal, then it is too easy for the IEP goal not to be implemented at all! We have sat in many meetings where no one has been working on the IEP goal with the student because no one took responsibility for it (“I wasn’t listed on the IEP goal so I didn’t know to work on it.” We hear this frequently). Avoid this problem by making sure someone on the team is responsible for implementing the IEP goal.
How Do I Know If My Student Is Making Progress With Their IEP Goals and Objectives?
The IEP team is supposed to report your student’s progress on their IEP goals at a time specified on your IEP: this typically is semesterly, quarterly or trimesterly. The IEP goal progress should look similar to the IEP goal itself and follow the same rules above for the IEP baseline: no extraneous information, information that is related to the IEP goal. Progress on IEP goals should be sent home to you at the set time and presented to you at the annual IEP meeting.
If the IEP goals were written well, you should easily be able to tell what kind of IEP goal progress is being made. If the IEP baseline said Suzy was solving math problems with 30% accuracy and the IEP progress report shows 50% accuracy, Suzy is making progress and moving in the right direction.
What Do I Do If I Feel My Student Isn’t Making Progress?
If the IEP progress reports or your gut is telling you that anticipated IEP goal progress isn’t being made, you should call an IEP team meeting. Even though the District is responsible for doing this under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it doesn’t happen often. Make sure you put your request for an IEP team meeting in writing. We also recommend including an administrator on the IEP team meeting request. If the district holds the IEP team meeting and you still have concerns, seek help from an educational advocate. At AdvocacySD, we walk you through the IEP goal-writing process so you understand whether or not the IEP goals are appropriate for your student and how to fix them if your student isn’t making progress on their IEP goals. We will hold the IEP team accountable for implementing appropriate, well-written IEP goals so your student is working on areas of need and launching toward success.
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