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Are These Good IEP Goals?

03/19/12
by Sue Whitney

My child is a freshman in high school. Her IEP includes this goal and objectives.

Judy will improve reading comprehension skills by using graphic organizers to access the curriculum with 70% accuracy per quarter.

The short term objectives are:

1. Judy will summarize or bullet important information in a variety of reading material with 70% accuracy.

2. Judy will recall specific facts, information & details after reading a variety of texts with 70% accuracy.

3. Judy will summarize a passage or story, relating essential components with 70% accuracy.

4. Judy will use vocabulary to identify the characters, setting, events, problems & solution in a story passage with 70% accuracy per quarter.

This goal doesn’t make sense to me. It seems vague. Shouldn’t an IEP goal include the child’s present levels of academic achievement or functional performance? 

Writing Measurable Goals

You are right. This IEP goal makes no sense. Yes, before you can create any goal, you need to know the child’s present levels – that is the starting point.

Your child has problems with reading comprehension. How can teachers work to improve her reading comprehension skills by using “graphic organizers to access the curriculum with 70% accuracy? ” Even this goal was appropriate, how would you and the IEP team know if she “improved to 70% accuracy”? What will happen if her improvement in using graphic organizers was 62% or 57%? What do these numbers mean?

Change the facts. Assume that a goal states that the child will type 40 words-per-minute. She currently types at a rate of 38 words-per-minute. While improving typing skills by 2 words-per-minute may be acceptable as a weekly goal or objective, it is completely inappropriate as an annual goal. If a child’s present level of performance in typing is 20 words-per-minute, then an annual goal of 40 words-per-minute may (or may not) be appropriate.

How will a child  “summarize with 70% accuracy?” How will we know that she didn’t “summarize with 40% accuracy?” In addition to being inappropriate, you cannot measure progress with this goal.

Resources

Barbara Bateman wrote an excellent book about  Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives.

She also wrote Writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for Success.

Check out this material about Writing IEP Goals – this is from a school district so it may be more acceptable to the IEP team members.

You’ll answers to your questions about present levels of performance and how to write IEP goals  in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.

Your Assignment

Study the two articles about writing IEP goals and objectives.

1. Print the articles. Review each goal.

  • What is the present level of performance for each goal?
  • Does the goal include a plan to improve the skills up  to grade level? (or at least more than one year of progress in an academic year)
  • How is the child’s progress being measured? What objective measurement shows that the present level of performance improved?

2. Print a copy of your state curriculum or academic standards. Your state curriculum tells you and the team what a child in a particular grade should be taught during the year so the child is prepared for the next grade. You will find your state curriculum frameworks or academic standards on your state Department of Education website.

3. After you revise the IEP goals, you need to review your child’s most recent evaluations.

  • Are the concerns noted in the evaluation addressed by goals in the IEP?
  • Does the IEP include accommodations that should be IEP goals? Example: Assume that your child’s reading comprehension skills are deficient. Does the IEP include a plan to improve these skills? Or, does the IEP provide accommodations that do not address her deficient reading skills?
  • If your child masters all the goals in her IEP, will she be at grade level in these areas?
  • How will you know if she is making progress?

By law, an IEP is required to address all the child’s needs that result from the disability. Does your child have needs that are not addressed in her IEP?  If the IEP does not address all her needs that result from the disability, ask that these needs be included in her IEP. Better yet – write a short letter to the IEP team to request that these needs be included in her IEP.

Looking Forward to Graduation

Since your child is in high school, she may need an extended day or extended year program so she can get the specialized instruction she requires without missing classes she needs to earn credits toward graduation. If your child plans to attend college, make sure you know what classes the college expects applicants to have, so she has time to meet these expectations before graduating from high school.

At age 16, a child’s IEP is driven by the transition plan. Make sure the transition plan is comprehensive and complete. Barbara Bateman’s article addresses transition. You will find answers to questions about transition plans and transition assessments in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs.

The New Hampshire Department of Education publishes a Transition Manual that includes a checklist and a good worksheet that you can use to review transition issues. Note: This document is from NH where the age for transition planning is 14. You need to check your state special education regulations to find the transition age requirements in your state.

Comprehensive Evaluation

Has your child had a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation recently?

When you review her  recent evaluations, you may see that the “comprehension goals” in her IEP should really focus on weaknesses in decoding, oral language, or phonological awareness.

  • Do the most recent evaluations confirm that reading comprehension is the primary problem, and that your child’s decoding, phonological awareness and oral language are not problem areas?
  • Do the most recent evaluations indicate that your child has problems in spelling and written expression?

When you  re-read the evaluations, you must understand the test results. If you have not had a private sector evaluation on your child recently, I recommend that you arrange to have an evaluation completed.

The Wrightslaw Multimedia Training on CD-ROM – Understanding Your Child’s Test Scores – will help you understand the bell curve, mean, and standard deviations on tests. You will also learn about standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, composite or cluster scores, and subtest scatter. You will learn how to draw the  bell curve and how to use your child’s test scores to create powerful progress (or lack of progress) graphs.

Appropriate Annual Goals by Sue Whitney

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anne 10/02/12 at 11:21 pm

    I have to beg to differ somewhat on Barbara Bateman’s work. It is certainly light years ahead of what the public schools are doing, but now that the IDEA calls for the application of peer-reviewed research to the degree practicable, it’s my argument that the degree of empiricism called for in writing truly measurable goals is the same degree of empiricism called for by science, it’s absolutely practicable, and Bateman’s examples in Writing Measurable IEP Goals and Objectives falls far short of that mark. Goals are how you measure the acquisition of skills and/or increased independence with an emerging skill. The definition of “measurable” wasn’t altered by the IDEA. It means the same thing in special ed as it means in science. Unfortunately, Sue’s example in this post is what passes for “measurable” in our schools, which is just a crime.

  • 2 Ioana 04/12/12 at 10:44 am

    Wrightslaw,
    Thank you so much for your advice. Very appreciated.
    I might have one dilemma concerning my son’s placement. If he doesn’t meet all the IEP goals and struggles in a 24 student-classroom (sensory overload), how can I ask the school to make accommodations or find a smaller classroom? Could you recommend any book?
    Thanks!

  • 3 Wrightslaw 04/03/12 at 2:17 pm

    Will the results of the FBA be available sooner? If not, it would be difficult for you to receive the results sooner. But, it doesn’t sound like this is the case.

    Other option – postpone the IEP meeting. Generally no one wants to do this. Explain to the BCBA that you would certainly hate to inconvenience everyone by having to postpone/request another IEP meeting so you could be better prepared, and better able to “engage in a full discussion of the proposals for the IEP.”

    The information in this post may help you. School Evaluations: Should schools provide parents with a copy before an IEP meeting. http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=67.

    The discussion in the Commentary to the Federal Special Education Regulations – helps to clarify the importance of ensuring that parents have the information they need to participate meaningfully in IEP Team meetings, which may include reviewing their child’s records. In your case, the results of the FBA.

    Same reasoning applies to Draft IEPs. You’ll find what US DOE says about draft IEPs in these two articles. http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/?p=150 and http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.draft.howey.htm

    The public agency also should provide the parents with a copy of its draft proposals, if the agency has developed them, prior to the IEP Team meeting so as to give the parents an opportunity to review the recommendations of the public agency prior to the IEP Team meeting, and be better able to engage in a full discussion of the proposals for the IEP.

  • 4 ioana 04/03/12 at 12:46 pm

    Hi!
    I have a 6 year-old boy with autism in public school and I requested an FBA because his aide tells me that he is always tired in school, he doesn’t socialize and because he is very vulnerable to sensory overload. His BCBA told me that I will get the FBA results 2 days before the IEP meeting. How can I ask her to send me the results earlier?
    Thanks.

  • 5 Mike the Psych 03/23/12 at 3:05 pm

    Ron, does your daughter have an IEP or 504 plan for Autism? If not your first step would be to request an evaluation. That would determine if her symptom’s of Autism adversely affect her educational performance. Supports for students with Autism should always take into account the communication and social needs of the student. What exactly those supports look like will depend on your daughter’s present levels, but if there are problems on the playground they should certainly be addressed by the school.

    Any verified instances of bullying should always elicit a response by the school, especially against students with disabilities.

  • 6 Ron 03/20/12 at 12:22 am

    My daughter with autism is unable to play with other children on the school playground. She spends her playground time in self-play or she may occasionally engage a peer or two if she runs into them, while criss-crossing the playground. In these instances, she engages with other children for less than 30 seconds. Sometimes, she is brushed off by other kids or she is disinterested, etc. She also wanders to the edge of the playground, has eloped from the playground, and has been bullied on the playground.

    Is the school required by any law to teach my child how to socially engage with other kids so she is able to fit in with typically developing children?