At least once a year, the team, which may consist of of family members, therapists, advocates, teachers, and the ESE specialist, gather in a formal setting to discuss the progress a student has or has not made during a specified time period. Before this meeting occurs, you, as the child’s teacher, will need to write an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).
The IEP will include a PLP, or Present Level of Performance. This is a narrative describing behaviors, academic growth, social skills, and communication and language. In most cases, the teacher feels more comfortable writing this section prior to formulating goals and objectives. The PLP generally includes the results from a variety of subject and communication assessments, as well as tests and classroom work based upon teacher observation. Today, we are going to focus on the goals and objectives section and how to write IEP goals that any teacher can understand.
Year after year, we all “inherit” some new kids that require specific motivators to stay on task, visuals to keep behavior in check, or even a special presentation format for academic tasks. In order to truly understand what the student needs, it’s always best to consult with the teacher who wrote the goals. Since that is not always possible, as both students and teachers change schools or move away, it’s important to write detailed goals that benefit the student and will lead him or her to master the skill. What’s just as important, is to use wording that is easily understood by anyone who reads the goal. If your school or district provides a program using a standardized listing of goals, then you’re pretty much set in this area. While everyone will be familiar with what the goal means, it may not be specific enough to help the student get where he or she needs to be in any one of the domains (Curriculum and Instruction/ Social-Emotional/Independent Functioning/Communication). But now, let’s talk about the goals that you can have control over.
As most teachers rely on the information presented in the PLP to write the student’s goals, it may be easier for you to approach it this way. For me, however, being fully aware of the child’s present goals, I will always jot down ideas for new goals and objectives in their data binder. This way, as the time approaches for the old IEP to expire, I already have some great ideas on how a student can master the next skill set. All IEP goals that I write are always based upon our state standards. It is not a regurgitation of the standard, rather it is broken down into steps. Sometimes, it looks nothing like the original standard (whether you use a state standard or Common Core) because it has been adjusted to fit the students’ learning needs.
If you look at the sample below, you will see the progression of an IEP goal. The first one is too broad and doesn't adequately represent what the task is, what the student needs to accomplish, or even what the reward is. The second goal provides more information, but it is the last goal which gives specific details. Next year’s teacher will understand what our reward system is and that the time required to complete a task will vary dependent upon what the task is. I will almost always include a picture of any reward system I use, and any other information that I feel will be beneficial to helping the new teacher implement the goal in progress.
Here are some tips on how to write effective IEP Goals:
“Interview” inclusion teachers and therapists.
They work with your student, too, and the setting may be different. How does this student perform in a larger group setting? Does the student have a higher level of success staying on task during speech, language, or OT?
Schedule a conference.
Meeting with parents/guardians can be very helpful. Schedule a conference close to the time you will begin writing the new goals. No, parents should not be allowed to write their own goals, but their input can be invaluable. It gives both you and the parents the opportunity to discuss in open terms how well their child is doing. It also allows you to talk informally about a behavior or academic concern. This prevents any “surprises” during the formal meeting.
Jot down thoughts and ideas for new goals.
This is just for you. It doesn’t have to be written in any format for anyone to see. When I am working with a student and I see them struggling with the next step of a math skill, or having difficulty decoding words, or writing their last name, I write myself some reminder notes in the students’ data binder. I know it is safe there (and I’ll remember where to find it!). I have found this to be incredibly helpful when I’m ready to write a goal.
Use your data!
You’ve taken data all year long and now it’s time to put it to good use. Did the student master the old goal? Are they close to mastery, or miles away? It’s okay to discontinue a goal, or revise a goal with new “stepping stones”. By working with the child, you may have discovered a new method to help achieve the goal.
Write and rewrite!
I don’t think I’ve ever written a goal without revising at least one word in it! Once you feel satisfied with what the student needs to achieve, the time frame in which it should be accomplished, any supports needed, the percentage of time, and setting, the goal is ready!
User friendly goals.
Write it like the goal is your friend. Whether it’s the need to impress the parent, advocate, or whomever, writing a goal for them is not what it’s all about. I should be able to walk into your room, pick up any IEP (yes, I won’t speak about confidentiality here!), and read a goal fully understanding what the child needs to accomplish and the method he or she will use to get there. You never want the next teacher to look at a student’s goal and say, “Huh?” This is not the place for fancy terms or language.
That forever formula.
Yes, to write an effective IEP goal, you will need to include the following components: the time frame in which the goal needs to be accomplished, what skill the student needs to accomplish, the setting in which the student needs to accomplish the goal, how it will be measured and by what percentage of accuracy, and any supports the student will need to accomplish the goal. If you include all of these details, you have written an effective goal.
What about objectives?
Do I really need them? Each district has their own requirements. In our district, if a student is on alternate standards, or in Kindergarten, objectives must be included. They are pretty simple to write, as they generally represent three steps in implementing the goal. It can be as easy as dividing a word list by the first ten words, then next ten words, etc.
Please share with us in the comments section how you write goals or any challenges that you encounter in the process. Tips, tricks, and ideas are all welcome.
Thank you and enjoy!