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Understanding the Importance of IEP Goals and Objectives

July 7, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The Goals and Objectives section of the IEP is the”meat” of the IEP. Goals and objectives should be directly linked to the child’s educational needs. Special educators determine what a child’s education needs are through formal and informal assessments, through observations of the child’s behaviors and social interactions, through parent feedback, through work products the child creates and through evaluating the child’s level of success with different teaching interventions. The goals and objectives are the specific skills the child is going to learn during the course of the IEP, which is usually one year. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top 10 Items that Should Be Listed in an IEP

April 10, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

We all know how important it is to have an IEP that addresses our child’s Academic, Developmental and Functional needs; to ensure they are appropriately prepared for an independent future.  Therefore, as parents, we have to make sure our child’s IEP includes the necessary information to prepare them for life after high school.  The results of your child’s most recent assessments, report cards, state tests, school personnel and parent input will assist the team in developing an appropriate IEP. Read the rest of this entry →

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Putting an Appropriate IEP Team Together

March 22, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Pete Wright, the Godfather of Special Education law, has often been quoted saying, “Unless you are prepared to remove your child from public school forever, you need to view your relationship with the school as a marriage without the possibility of divorce.” While this may be true regarding the School relationship, this isn’t the case for individual members of the IEP Team. IEP Team members change frequently and it’s amazing how adding or removing one person from the IEP Team can make a huge difference in the quality and implementation of an IEP. While the Parents are not normally in control of the IEP team members from the School, there are methods the Parents can use to add or remove members. Read the rest of this entry →

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What is a Special Education Advocate?

January 25, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Special Education Advocates or IEP Advocates help parents write appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and attain special education services for their child with a disability from their public school system.  They do so by familiarizing themselves with the special education process.  Please be aware, advocates are not attorneys.  However, advocates are extremely helpful in IEP meetings to assist in the negotiation process between parents and their school.  The Advocate can provide information about special education options and requirements and can help seek specific services or programs.  The advocate knows local schools resources and can see solutions others might not.  A Special Education Advocate is: Read the rest of this entry →

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Ten Steps to Writing Effective IEP Goals

January 23, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that all Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) include:

A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to (a) meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and (b) meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. Read the rest of this entry →

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Dyslexia: To Spell or Not to Spell – The Sequel

May 12, 2013 in Featured, Special Education Articles by Jess

I think I am a fairly reasonable person. I know how to pick my battles and when to use honey to catch flies. This spelling conundrum is getting the better of me. Let me refresh your memory and then give you an update. Awhile back I shared a story about an IEP where the resource teacher and general education teacher unanimously agreed that the 5th grade student with dyslexia really didn’t need to know how to spell because, “…after all, they don’t really need it in middle school anyway and he can just use spell check.” I then put their theory to the test and found that if this student relied solely on spell check in WORD, he would still misspell 27% of the words. Read the rest of this entry →

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To Spell or Not to Spell: Is it important?

March 11, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It happened again. I was in an IEP for a student with dyslexia who is struggling with spelling the most. This GATE-identified young man is in the 5th grade and spelling phonetically, yet he was not receiving  services for spelling last year – which is why I am now involved in the IEP process. The meeting was somewhat tense from the beginning, but when we got to the spelling goal this is what was presented: Thomas will be taught to memorize and spell 200 of the most common sight words. Hmm. Ok. So, my response: Can we change this goal so that we are actually teaching him to spell versus just memorizing some words? This is when I got the death stare and then silence. I interpreted the silence to mean that the RSP teacher didn’t know how to write the goal because she did not know how to teach a kid who is spelling phonetically how to spell. Then she said it, and the general ed teacher agreed with a nod of his head: He is going to middle school next year and he really doesn’t need to know how to spell anymore. I mean they don’t give spelling tests. My heart started to pound and then she added the ubiquitous suggestion: He can just learn to use spell check. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Importance of Including Your Child in Their Own IEP Meeting

March 6, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

We as parents spend a lot of time advocating for our children when they are young.  However, there comes a time when our children become older and they have to learn how to advocate for themselves; knowing when the time is right will depend on your child.  If your child is still attending elementary school, they are most likely NOT mature enough to participate.  For those of you who have children in middle school, now is the time to think about the prospect of someday having your child attend their own IEP meeting. Read the rest of this entry →

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Dyslexia: It’s all about goals, goals, goals

November 6, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I am noticing a disturbing trend when I read IEPs and I have had some nonsensical conversations about reading with IEP teams lately as well. This trend and these conversations center around the goals section of the IEP. What this has revealed to me is what I have suspected all along – there is a lack of expertise and understanding of not only dyslexia, but the progression of teaching reading and the components of the reading process. To correct this trend I offer the following examples to illustrate some fallacies about reading as well as how to fix goals.

Parents have asked me, how important are the goals anyway?  Remember: needs drive goals and goals drive services. The school is only held responsible for the goals that are set and agreed upon in the IEP. If they are low or incorrect and the IEP is signed, the school is only responsible for those goals. It seems to make more sense to make sure the goals are written so that the child receives some educational benefit and that the goals make pedagogical sense.  For example, if there is a need for fluency improvement then there should be a goal for that. Is there is a need for spelling, there should be a goal for that. If there is a need for sight word improvement, then there should be a goal for that. If there are ten needs, then there are ten goals. There is no limit to the number of goals an IEP can have.

IEP Team: We did not include a fluency goal because he is only reading 12 words per minute correctly right now, so what is the point in teaching fluency?

For those of you who have read my prior articles, you can just insert a snarky comment here. I will only say, really? I have to admit, I was speechless while I gathered my thoughts to respond.  When reading improvement is a need, the IEP should always include a fluency goal. Fluency is the ultimate goal of reading and needs to be taught and practiced from day one. Make sure the baseline has a present WPM, not just a grade level. The goal WPM should be high enough that it would be noticeable and measurable progress. Additionally, the tool to assess should be the same for progress monitoring.

IEP Team: We did not include a phonological awareness goal because we have a vocabulary goal.

Again, this is simply a lack of awareness of the reading process. If a child is struggling with single word reading, nonword reading, spelling, and/or fluency, then it is a need and they require a phonological awareness goal. Vocabulary and phonological awareness are not one in the same; in fact they are two entirely separate components of reading. Phonological awareness teaches the student to understand and manipulate the language by understanding phonemes, syllable types and spelling rules. This is accomplished using a multisensory, structured, sequential program. Because we are talking about students with dyslexia, they will always need a phonological processing goal. It is also imperative that the program being used and the teacher qualifications be documented in the IEP – usually in the notes section.

Below is a real example. Please read it and ask yourself what is wrong with the goal.

Proposed Goal: John will be able decode multisyllabic words that include words with long vowel sounds (a,e,i) in words like turmoil and chipper.

Did you find the problems? Are you stunned? Embarrassed for the author of this goal? It is very common to see goals like this and this is a fabulous illustration of the importance of nit-picking the goals. Here are the problems: 1) where are o and u, 2) what grade level, how many words – where is the measurable part of the goal, 3) the goal states that only one concept will be learned in a year (the long vowel sound of only three of the vowels), 4) and last but certainly not least, turmoil and chipper do not contain long vowel sounds!

Below is the same goal rewritten:

New Goal: When given a list of 50 words Scott will be able to accurately decode multisyllabic words that contain closed, open, vowel teams and vowel-consonant-e (beside, statement, remain) syllable types with 90% accuracy as measured by teacher records.

This new goal includes more than one syllable type which means he is expected to learn more than the original goal suggested, it is measurable, and most importantly, the words used as examples are correct and show an understanding of what John will actually be learning.

IEP Team: We don’t really teach spelling, we just do worksheets and weekly tests.

For students who are not struggling, this might work. For those with dyslexia, this is disastrous. The fact of the matter is that most teachers and curriculum developers do not know any other way to teach spelling. How to teach spelling is a topic for another article (please see http://www.wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Home.html for an extremely effective way to teach spelling – I have no affiliation, but always share a wonderful resource), but if there is a need to improve spelling, then there is a goal for spelling. Additionally, this should be a stand-alone goal, not grouped in with sight words, etc.

Here is an example of an acceptable, measurable spelling goal with high expectations:

New Goal: When presented with a list of 50 multisyllabic third grade words that includes closed, open and vowel-consonant-e syllable types, John will accurately spell them with 90% accuracy.

Again, ask the IEP to document in the notes how this will be accomplished.

Some additional tips about goals for students with dyslexia:

  • Goals should say either 90% or 4/5 times, but not both.
  • Goals should be measureable.
  • Goals should respond to each and every need identified by assessments and teacher observations.
  • No one reading goal should include more than one component of reading. (i.e. comprehension, fluency and phonological awareness should not be in the same goal – they are different skills).
  • Baselines need to accurate and current. They need to include data, not subjective descriptions.
  • Improving the reading and writing of sight words are stand-alone goals.
  • Goals should be written to expect significant progress. Beware of the low-expectation goals.

Read the IEP from the top down. The present levels need to include data, not observations. Goals should be directly derived from assessments and progress monitoring. Every need should be addressed. Goals drive services, so if the goals are incomplete, low or inaccurate, the services will be incomplete and ineffective. It never hurts to ask an expert to read the IEP and get a second opinion. For students with dyslexia, goals can be very tricky, but they are the pinnacle of the IEP – make them count.

Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.) She is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process. She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs. Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She is currently working on her book, Putting the D in IEP: A guide to dyslexia in the school system. Join the Dyslexia Training Institute at www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining


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Data, Data, Data

October 9, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Recently, in one of my classes, we had a debate regarding the importance of data collection in the classroom.  Everyone had varying opinions on the importance of data, but one of my classmates was adamant in her stance:

I’m totally against taking data. I don’t see the point. It’s too time consuming and it’s time better spent with my students. I know if my kids are doing better or if they need help. I don’t need data to tell me this.

I should start by saying (in case this teacher is reading this) that I have a lot of respect her.  She works with a tough population, is passionate about her work, and isn’t afraid to express her opinions. Read the rest of this entry →

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