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.
While many parents focus their attention on placement and services they inadvertently overlook the goals section which is one of the most essential components of an IEP. The discussion of the proper amount of services and placement will be decided directly based on the written IEP goals. This is why it’s important to write effective IEP goals. The following ten steps will help you write effective IEP goals:
1. Start at the beginning with present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. Just as IEP goals drive services and placement, the present levels of performance drive goals. This will be your road map to writing all of the goals. Accurately written present levels of performance will provide you with key information on both 1) what goals to write, and b) what strengths the child has to help compensate for the disability. If your present level of performance doesn’t include strengths then it hasn’t been written appropriately;
2. Familiarize yourself with your State’s Academic Content Standards. At this point 44 States have adopted the Common Core Standards. You can review the Common Core Standards website to download the standards. If your State is one of the 6 that doesn’t follow the common core you will be able to find the standards on your State’s Department of Education Website;
3. Make sure you write a goal for every area of need. This may include writing more than one goal for every subject area. By familiarizing yourself with the academic standards you will have a better understanding of what types of goals to write. For instance, math can be broken up into subsets such as math fluency, math facts, math computation, math comprehension, statistics or algebraic functions. If you are writing goals for a modified curriculum the standards for lower grades may still be useful in writing goals. Goals also incorporate more than academics and should include social/emotional and other related services needed to help the child access the curriculum;
4. Spur conversation using the Six W questions; Who, What, Where, When, Why & How. Asking and answering these questions will help make the goal more specific. For instance, “Jimmy will learn to read”, can be made more specific by saying, “When given a second grade passage, Jimmy will read 75 words per minute correctly using proper decoding methods”;
5. Make sure the goals are easy to understand, if you can’t understand the goal in the first reading neither will anyone else. Considering the amount of turnover seen in school personnel making sure a new therapist or teacher can understand the goals is very important;
6. All IEP goals need to be measurable so that parents and school personnel can establish how much progress has been made on reaching the goal. Make sure the measurement is being conducted using a specific method of data collection. Allowing an IEP goal to be measured by teacher observation alone is too subjective;
7. All goals should be attainable. Set up goals that will gradually get your child up to grade level. You want to instill confidence in the child so that they are reaching milestones that will eventually catch them up;
8. All goals should include a timeframe in which the goal will be accomplished. The maximum length of a goal should be no longer than one year to match the requirement to hold at least annual IEP meetings;
9. All goals should be realistic. A realistic goal is a goal that can be achieved with the implementation of a well thought-out IEP; and
10. When writing goals for a transition plan these goals should not be a repeat of other goals in the IEP but should be based the student’s interests and preferences based on 1) specific age-appropriate transition assessments and, 2) transitions services needed to assist the student in achieving their post-school outcomes.