Are you waiting for an IEP to be proposed? Or, are you thinking that the goals in your student’s IEP need to be revised or updated? Having troubles knowing whether a proposed goal is good? You’re not alone! Hours can be wasted away drafting goals that are too broad, too ambiguous and/or too difficult to measure. Here are some quick tips on how to craft goals that are skill-specific, measurable and capable of testing by anyone!
Tip #1 Do not use ambigous terms or phrases! Any phrase that includes a term such as “appropriate” or “student’s instructional level” can be subject to different meanings, different approaches, and therefore different data collection. Many social skills goals, for example, will state that the student’s goal is to use “age appropriate” conversation skills. Poor reading goals will state “at the student’s instructional level.” However, what is age appropriate? How do you measure when something “age appropriate” has been spoken? What is the student’s instructional level that is supposed to be accessed? Avoid characterizations and instead use specific skills or levels.
Tip #2: Before crafting a goal, first make sure you have a strong baseline! Before drafting a goal, there must be a strong baseline available so that all team members understand what the student is currently able to do so that they can draft a goal about what the student needs to do. The “baseline” of a student’s academic or functional skill forms the foundation upon which the goal is based and is crucial to have before drafting a goal. If the baseline does not relate to the goal, then it is not a true baseline. Occasionally, a proposed baseline will state “no baseline – goal is a new skill,” but almost always there is something the student is doing that relates to the proposed goal.
Good baselines should reference such things as:
a. the student’s current proficiency level or accuracy percentage,
b. prompt levels needed for the student to complete the skill,
c. time periods in which the skill is accomplished (if applicable) and
d. setting where the baseline proficiency level was measured because skills can vary according to the setting. Only once a data-based baseline is provided, can the team can begin drafting a goal.
Tip #3: Make sure each goal includes the following items:
1. Date: The date by which the skill should be acquired (the annual date).
Example: By the 2013 annual review date …, By May 2013 …
2. Who: Goals should state the student’s name in case the pages become detached or are provided individually to staff to work on specific goals.
Example: By May 2013, Johnny will ….
3. What: What is the skill the student will learn by the annual date? Academic skills should be based upon state standards and identify the grade level of the standard so that all team members are aware of the skill level targeted by the end of the annual period. Functional skills should similarly be identified with specificity so that all team members know what the skill is expected by the end of the annual reporting period.
For example if the student is supposed to learn classroom skills, the goal should set forth exactly what the student needs to learn (e.g. sitting down, raising hand, keeping hands to him/herself). If the student needs to learn social skills, the team should consider composing a list of common school scenarios that the student needs help with and reference the list in the goal. The use of “age appropriate” or other vague phrases or terms should be avoided because they are subject to different meanings and fail to specify the specific skills the student needs to learn.
4. How will this student be supported to develop the skill in question? Most IEP teams forget to set forth in the goal how the student will be able to meet the goal. Obviously if the student could meet a goal on his/her own, an IEP goal would not be needed so it is important to include the “how” to ensure that the proper support is used to help the student reach the goal. (E.g. through the daily use of a remediation program? through daily role playing or use of social skills stories? through the use of an intensive reading intervention program? through the use of cloze activities, multiple choice or verbal answers to test reading comprehension, etc.)
5. What is the targeted accuracy level? (Mastery 90%? Proficiency 80%)
6. How will the goal be measured? In 3 trials taken over a single week? 3 consecutive trials? By data from a standardized test? By comparison of the student’s STAR reading scores at the beginning of the year and the trimester assessments? Or the use of a particular district or state assessment? Through data from a research based remediation/intervention program? Through weekly quizzes or work samples? Be wary of goals that state 80% in 4/5 trials as this actually can mean just over a 60% success rate (.80 x .80 = .64%)
7. Where will the targeted skill be observed and measured? In the classroom? During speech therapy? On the playground? In a structured practice supervised by the speech therapist?
8. Who will be in charge of collecting data to determine whether the goal was met? IEP teams often like to have the teacher responsible for collecting data but this is often impossible for a teacher to do well because the teacher is busy teaching a classroom of students. Discuss with the team who else can collect the data to avoid interfering with the teaching program itself. (e.g. the SLP? the school psychologist or behavioralist?)
If your student has failed to meet goals in the past, be sure to also discuss whether a different monitoring approach should be used (e.g. bi-weekly versus trimester) to ensure that the goals and supports for the current IEP are working! Good luck to everyone!