ESSENTIAL PARTS OF AN IEP GOAL
IEP Goals are essentially the main teaching points that your child’s education will center around.
It’s important that the goals be aligned with the areas that you deem most valuable and crucial to your child’s academic skill set, as well as being individualized and tailored to your child specifically.
Once the areas of concentration have been discussed and agreed upon, a well written goal will have several parts.
They key to a good goal is in the details!
A GOAL DATE
Many times you will see this written as, “By March 2015…”
Why is this important?
You want to make sure that your child’s goals are updated as needed, and minimally once a year. By adding a date for their goal, your team is creating an action plan with a timeline that holds everyone accountable. This also insures that, yes indeed, the IEP has been updated and this is a new (or continued and updated) goal.
Who is going to reach this goal?
I know it sounds silly that you must specify who the goal is intended for, especially when this entire meeting is for your child, but it helps ensure that the goal has been individualized for your child and is not copy/pasted from a goal bank. While these banks are great for getting ideas and inspiration, ideally goals should always be customized to create an Individual Education Program for your child’s specific needs.
A goal should clarify exactly what you would like your child to accomplish, and it should be written in a way that allows for consistent and effective data collection.
For instance a goal that states,
“By March 2015, Sally will learn addition…”
is not nearly as exact as,
“By March 2015, Sally will learn to add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives…”
The second example clearly describes what she will be working on; single digit addition, only two numbers are to be added at a time, and she will have the help of physical manipulatives. Unfortunately, the first example leaves out the important details and just vaguely states that she will learn to add. Does this mean one digit? Two digits? Five?
The more descriptive the goal, the more clarity there is as to what exactly your child will be focusing on. It also cuts out unnecessary confusion between the entire IEP team, and once again helps ensure that the goal has been designed specifically with your child in mind.
Remember: If your child meets their goal before the next IEP is due you can still update, modify, and add goals throughout the year.
What constitutes mastery for your child’s goal?
By this I mean, how will you know that your child has actually learned what is intended to be taught?
Since data should be taken on goals in the classroom, mastery levels should then be written with data in mind. How many times must your child answer correctly in order for them to move on to the next phase of learning? Should they exhibit this skill several days in a row? Once a week?
Here’s a little example using our student, Sally:
A- By March 2015, Sally will add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives with 80% accuracy on five days…”
B- By March 2015, Sally will independently and correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 8/10 trials across five consecutive trial days…”
These are both the same goal, yet example B specifies exactly what it would take to reach mastery. It is clearly understood that the child must independently and correctly answer the problems, and do so in 8/10 trials on five consecutive trial days.
How is 80% different than 8/10 trials?
In example A, your child could answer four out of five problems correctly and still get 80% right, but is five trials enough? Ten trials is a good minimum, and best practice, to ensure that the data being taken on your child’s progress willnot be skewed by a low number of trials.
It’s also important that Example B specifies that they must correctly answer 8/10 problems on five consecutive trial days. This presumably exemplifies that your child has indeed understood the lesson of addition at hand, and can reliably answer addition problems correctly and consistently.
Example A tries to secure this, yet left out the fact that the days must be consecutive days in which trials were held. Therefore, data from your child’s five best days could be used to show mastery, and this isn’t what we want.
We want to ensure that your child has internalized the lesson, and can consistently and reliably exhibit the skill of adding two single digit numbers.
How will data be taken on this goal? A well written IEP goal should state just this.
For instance, is data be taken from physical artifacts (tests, worksheets, etc) or is a staff member using observation to track progress?
Let’s go back to our example:
A: By March 2015, Sally will independently and correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 8/10 trials across five consecutive trial days.
B- By March 2015, Sally will independently and correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 8/10 trials across five consecutive trial days, as measured by direct staff observation and data collection methods.
Example B has added that data must be taken by a staff member who is directly observing your child answer the addition problems, and that data must be taken.
Data is important to track and graph, as it can show us trends in your child’s learning that may otherwise be skewed by day to day circumstances such as mood, activity level, attentiveness, etc.
Objectives are often written in an area below a goal, and they specify how a goal can be broken down, and when these smaller goals should be reached by.
An example of Sally’s goal from before may be broken down into objectives as follows:
By June 2014, with a maximum of three prompts, Sally will correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 8/10 trials across five consecutive trial days, as measured by direct staff observation and data collection measures.
By October 2014, with a maximum of one prompt, Sally will correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 8/10 trials across five consecutive trial days, as measured by direct staff observation and data collection measures.
By January 2015, Sally will independently and correctly add two single digit numbers with the assistance of physical manipulatives, in 5/10 trials across five consecutive trial days, as measured by direct staff observation and data collection measures.
Obviously the above goal can be broken down in a number of ways, but the example above clearly specifies that Sally will be helped by a staff member using prompts, which will then be faded gradually.
By January, she will be answering addition problems independently, but the number of correctly trials is at 5/10 rather than 8/10 like it is in the final goal.
We are slowly leading her up to her mastery level, and ensuring that she is reaching critical points along the way.
Objective dates are a great place for teachers and parents to talk and communicate about goal advancement. This can be through progress reports, phone calls, or even a graph showing your child’s data thus far.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
There is often a note on a goal page about who is responsible for ensuring that the goal is consistently worked on. For instance, a speech goal may be worked on throughout your child’s entire day, but ultimately the Speech Pathologist may be the one who is in charge of ensuring progress and validity. This cuts down on confusion and holds specific team members accountable.
What is your child able to do in this moment?
A good baseline contains many aspects of a good goal, and specifically details your child’s current skill set pertaining to the goal at hand.
As an example, let’s go back to Sally. Her baseline may look similar to her goal, but outlines her abilities at the moment of the IEP.
As of March 2014, Sally is not currently working on adding two single digit addition problems. However, she is able to independently and correctly exhibit 1-1 number correspondence with physical manipulatives, in 10/10 trials across five consecutive trial days, as measured by direct staff observation and data collection methods.
Now, we as a team are able to recognize that although she hasn’t worked on addition before, her number correspondence skills are quite accurate and consistent without reliance on staff prompts.
IEP GOAL TIPS
Make the goals relevant.
If there is an area discussed in the present levels section of an IEP where your child is having difficulties, there should be a goal developed to assist them. Present levels are great jump off points for goal ideas, and can map out where concentration should be placed.
Every service should have at least one goal.
If you child is receiving a service such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, etc. then make sure there is at least one goal from each therapist. This helps communicate and clarify what that therapist will be working on with your child, and holds them accountable to consistent data collection.
Stay updated! Ask questions! Make recommendations.
As always, keep open communication. If you have any questions or concerns, make sure to let your child’s IEP team know. You know your child better than anyone else in the room, and with the help of their expertise, you can all come together to create an effective plan for your child’s education.
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