Tips for Writing IEP Goals That Meet New Special Education Standards

The 2017 Supreme Court Ruling on Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1 reaffirmed that special education can, and should, deliver more to students with disabilities. But how?

The way to reach improved outcomes is by creating fewer, but better and measurable, IEP goals and through progress monitoring. Unfortunately, writing IEP goals has become a procedural compliance process disconnected from intervention intensity that doesn’t lead to the kind of progress monitoring that has been shown to be among the most powerful tools in an educator’s toolbox.

In this webinar presented by the Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE) and Dr. Mark Shinn, professor of school psychology at National Louis University, you’ll learn, among many things, how writing scientifically sound and measurable IEP goals, including math and reading fluency IEP goals, can drive appropriately intensive, research-based interventions and reduce achievement gaps. You’ll also review best practices and key steps for writing IEP goals and walk away with IEP goals examples you can use to get started.

Watch this webinar to enhance your understanding of how to reduce the achievement gap for students with disabilities in your district and meet more rigorous special education standards by writing IEP goals that are strong and measurable.

Best Practices When Writing IEP Goals

How do you set quality IEP goals? In order to create goals that set high expectations and are linked to grade-level standards, educators must ask the three important questions outlined in this webinar:

  1. Where is the student now? In other words, what is the student’s present level of performance? Knowing that a student is in sixth grade and in the first percentile is simply not enough. Yes, it reveals that the student is discrepant at some level, but it does not reveal a student’s present level of performance.
  2. What level of performance (aka, curriculum level) does the student need to be at when the IEP expires to reduce the performance gap if the student’s present level of performance is significantly discrepant from other kids?
  3. What is the criterion for acceptable performance, or the CAP, that defines success? For example, if one of a student’s reading fluency IEP goals is to be a successful reader in grade four material, how do you define what it means to be a successful reader?

Steps for Writing IEP Goals

The webinar also discusses how educators can start answering the questions above by taking the following steps when writing IEP goals:

  1. Use curriculum-based measurement to determine the present level of performance based on survey-level assessment. Don’t just compare students to peers in their own grade. Instead, determine what students do successfully on a normative basis using curriculum-based measurement.
  2. Know the time frame for the goal. Almost always, but not exclusively, this time frame is one year, or the anniversary date, from when the IEP was first written.
  3. Determine the level of curriculum performance, or the criterion for acceptable performance, that defines success and will work to reduce the achievement gap.

IEP Goals Examples

Stressed in this webinar is the importance of quality over quantity. Educators should write fewer IEP goals, but base those goals on scientifically sound indicators and proven progress monitoring practices. To do this, educators must have strong, or reasonably strong, validated tools with which to write goals and monitor progress over time.

In the webinar, Dr. Shinn offers the following list of measurable IEP goals and objectives:

Writing IEP Goals for Reading, Spelling and Written Expression

In reading, examples of measurable IEP goals include:

  • In (#) weeks, (Student name) will read (#) Words Correctly in one minute from randomly selected Grade (#) passages.
  • In (#) weeks, (Student name) will write (#) Correct Letter Sequences and (#) Correct Words in two minutes from randomly selected Grade (#) spelling lists.
  • In (#) weeks, (Student name) will write (#) Total Words and (#) Correct Writing Sequences when presented with randomly selected Grade (#) story starters.

Writing IEP Goals for Mathematics Computation and Mathematics Problem Solving

In mathematics, an example of a measurable IEP goal includes:

  • In (#) weeks, (Student name) will write answers to (#) Correct Problems in eight minutes from randomly selected Grade (#) math problems.

Starting Writing Measurable IEP Goals

Watch this webinar for more information and advice for writing IEP goals that meet new, more rigorous standards for special education.

Dr. Mark Shinn: So here’s what it actually looks like. We would write fewer goals, better scientifically sound, and based on proven progress monitoring practices. So, for example, in reading, the heavy lifting would be done for a student with a reading problem by a framework where in X number of weeks, typically the anniversary date, the student will read some magic number of words from some graded level passages that would be determined. A simple oral reading test is a scientifically sound way of measuring general reading improvement over time. It works really well, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. We can do the same thing in spelling with the short spelling test or we can do the same thing in mathematics with a short mathematics computation task.

Dr. Mark Shinn: We can do the same thing in mathematics problem solving, and we can do the same thing in written expression. These are areas in which we have reasonably either strong or reasonably strong validated tools with which to write goals and monitor progress efficiently over time. I will emphasize reading since 90% of kids that are receiving, excuse me, special education present reading problems. So let’s talk about how do we set quality goal practices? If indeed we want to have goals that have high expectations and can be linked to grade level standards, how would we go about that process? It’s pretty simple. There’s three important questions that make it easy for everyone. One, we need to know where the student is now, the present level of performance or PLOP. We need to know that, we needed to know more than the student is in sixth grade and is at the first percentile.

Dr. Mark Shinn: That tells us the student is discrepant, but it doesn’t tell us their present level of performance. We need to judge if the student’s present level of performance is significantly discrepant from other kids, what level of performance would we want the student to be at that reduces the performance gap? If indeed we want it to have expectations that are high and linked to grade level standards, how would we define that? And then we need to be able to do this, and it’s called define the CAP, the criterion for acceptable performance. So when we say we want this student to be successful in say, reading grade four or grade five or grade six material, how do we define reading it well? And that’s called the CAP. These are the three questions that we ask, and we go about that process. I’ll show you an illustration.

Dr. Mark Shinn: The goal setting steps are, first, I like to use curriculum based measurement, like I said, because it’s scientifically sound than its cheap. And it lends itself to what’s called a survey level assessment where I’m not just comparing a kid to kids in their own grade. I’m actually determining what a student does do successfully, at least on a normative basis. So I’ll show you what a survey level assessment is like if you’re unfamiliar. I need to know the time frame for the goal. This is easy for kids with disabilities, almost always, but not exclusively. It is the anniversary date or one year from when the IEP is written. I need to determine the level of curriculum performance or the CAP, Criteria for Acceptable Performance that define success. And to me, if I’m going to be consistent with the Supreme Court ruling, that basis the expectations of the goal to have high expectations, I want to reduce the achievement gap.

Dr. Mark Shinn: And that means I need to define the CAP