IEPs & 504 Plans

3 Trademarks of an Effective IEP Goal

A strong IEP spells out specific, measurable, and reasonable goals that serve a student’s learning needs. Here, learn how to achieve productive IEP goals by spotting common problems and solving them in a way that serves your child’s long-term educational aims.

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Credit: Getty Images/gmast3r

IEP goals are an essential (and commonly rushed or short-changed) tool that helps parents and educators evaluate a student’s progress and success in school. But because goal setting often comes at the end of a lengthy, time-consuming IEP process, this important step receives insufficient attention — and that is a problem.

Even with adequate services and accommodations, your child’s IEP will come undone without clearly defined and appropriate goals that reflect their learning needs. Keep these factors in mind as your child’s learning team works to outline their IEP goals.

3 Questions Answered by Good IEP Goals

1. What are the child’s specific, objective, and quantifiable goals? How can you measure a student’s progress against vague IEP goals that are subjective and easy to ignore?

Take, for example, this IEP goal: The child will write a complete sentence 80% of the time. What exactly does a complete sentence look like? How will that 80% threshold be determined — per assignment? Per day? Per semester? When unhelpful goals like this go unchallenged and continue to form part of a student’s IEP, they influence how the team perceives the child’s progress and could possibly set them back. Remember, when you next sit down with the committee, you will want clear answers to the following questions:

  • Has the IEP goal been achieved?
  • If not, how can the IEP be modified going forward?

Too often goals are ambiguous or subjective, and ineffective IEP’s are simply rolled forward because there is no data to create the impetus to modify the program.

[Get This Free Download: How to Create and Maintain Your Child’s IEP]

If you come across a goal in your child’s IEP that you don’t understand, push back. Ask the team to explain specifically how the goal will support your child’s needs and how it will be evaluated. Optimally, a good set of IEP goals will include standardized measures for determining progress. Your goal should be to clearly understand what constitutes sufficient progress on a particular IEP goal.

2. Who is responsible for measuring progress? The IEP team should clearly identify who will measure your child’s progress on an IEP goal, and how frequently they will perform assessments. Depending on the goal, this person may be your child’s teacher, a paraprofessional, or a specialist who is knowledgeable about the skill in question.

3. How will the school communicate your child’s progress to you? Progress reports, which include updates on goal performance, are required with IEPs. It’s important to establish how often you’ll receive updates and just how you’ll receive this information about your child – written reports, phone calls, and emails are some options.

It typically takes months to measure and report a child’s progress toward their IEP goals. In the meantime, notice how your child is feeling about school. A happier, more confident outlook toward school is a sure sign that the IEP and its goals reflect your child’s needs and that educators are following the plan.

[Read: Common Problems & Helpful Solutions for Your IEP/504 Plan]

If you don’t see progress and things don’t seem to be going well, know that you can meet with the IEP team at any time to revisit the plan. It may also be possible to make slight changes to an IEP goal without a formal meeting. Remember that the IEP is a living document, and it’s important that the team consistently revisit the plan.

IEP Goals for Students with ADHD: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived, in part, from the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled, “Making the Classroom Work for Your Student: How to Build a Better IEP or 504 Plan for Your Child” [Video Replay and Podcast #227] with Susan Yellin, Esq. and Paul B. Yellin, MD, which was broadcast live on August 21, 2018.


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