How to Write an IEP from a Parent’s Perspective – Part 2

|January 30, 2024 | IEP

In the previous blog, we discussed the Present Levels Section. Here, we will dive into the Goals Section of the individual education plan (IEP).

First, IEPs are not solely academic. You can have goals for behavior, social skills, emotional regulation, and related services (occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc.). Regardless of the type of goal, you want to make sure it is a SMARTER goal.

Applying SMART Goals to IEP’s

You may have heard of a SMART goal, but here, we want to make it SMARTER. If you have not heard of a SMART goal, that is okay. I’ll walk you through it.

SMARTER is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound, Evaluate, Revisit/Rework.

All goals need to be specific. An IEP is a living document and should be written in a way that anyone who reads it can teach your child. For example, if your child has a reading goal to read 20 out of 25 third-grade site words by the end of the school year, what are those words? The 25 words on the third-grade site word list should be indicated in the IEP. If your child has behavior issues, a goal may be that they earn so many points or coins for good behaviors to be used at the end of the week for a prize. Again, we need this to be specific. What behaviors will be rewarded? How many points/coins are needed for each level of trinket? Is there a way that the child can lose points/coins? As much detail as possible is important to be specific.

The Importance of Creating Measurable Goals

Sometimes, the school will say that the goals cannot be specific, or we will need to change them repeatedly when met. EXACTLY! That’s the point. A possibility is to create an overall goal and then use short objectives or benchmarks to be specific. This will allow for the child to meet smaller goals within the overarching goal.

All goals need to be measurable. We need to track the data, so we know whether or not the child is making progress. In the examples above, we are measuring how many words from a list of site words a child will be able to read. We can go deeper and say that the child will read 20 out of 25 words in four out of five attempts. This will provide a progress chart, which will provide us with information about whether there are specific words that the child struggles with, when the child is able to read all the words and can move to the next level, and whether the goal is too large and we need to break it up into smaller chunks (10 out of 25, 15 out of 25, and so on). The behavioral goal that we previously mentioned would be measured similarly. How many points/coins did the child accumulate each week? What behaviors is the child achieving successfully? Where is the child lacking in behavioral skills? Many times measurable means numbers or some form of tracking ability.

All goals must be achievable for the child. Sometimes, parents and schools differ on a child’s abilities and what the child can achieve. Remember in the previous blog, we discussed present levels and parents’ input statements? What is your vision for your child? What does your child want to do after high school? If the child wants to be an engineer but cannot perform the math necessary to be an engineer, then calculus goals are probably not achievable. I understand this is an extreme example, but I want you to understand the meaning of achievable. We do not want to undermine your child either. If your child wants to be a landscaper, what skills can we turn into goals? Also think about living skills for the goals section, such as whether your child can create a budget, grocery shop for themselves, wash their own clothes, etc.

Relevancy and Timing in Setting Your Child’s IEP Goals

Also, goals need to be relevant. If your child is not struggling in academics, then why are there academic goals? If your child needs social skills, then there should be a goal based upon their needs. We also do not want ten goals just to have goals. Three to four goals are best. If you have more than five goals, there tends to be more teaching to the goals rather than a holistic learning experience.

All goals need to be time-bound. Generally, an IEP extends for one calendar year, which usually encompasses two school years. However, goals are measured based on a marking period or trimester, depending on your school district. Sometimes, goals include a time within the goal. For instance, the child will read 20 out of 25 site words within three minutes. If your child has ADHD or anxiety, time limits may not be a good option. We need to understand the purpose of the time limit. If the goal is to have your child read and understand the site words, does it matter whether they read those words in three minutes, five minutes, or eight minutes? Go back to the relevant and specificity of the goals to make sure that time is important.

Evaluate Your Goals & Your Child’s Progress Continuously

Most people who write SMART goals end here. However, I want your child to be SMARTER, and so I like to add the -ER to it. Evaluating the goals is so important. Without evaluation, we only have goals. We have no data collection or understanding whether the child is progressing. It’s like a plan without execution. Progress monitoring occurs every day at school. Reports should be provided to the parents with report cards at a minimum. I would recommend that you put into the IEP that you receive weekly progress reports, especially for non-academic goals. Bad behaviors should not be prolonged until the end of a marking period.

An overall evaluation should be completed at a minimum of every three years, unless your child is diagnosed with an intellectual disability, at which the child should be evaluated every two years. Simply request the evaluation in writing via email to the entire IEP team. The school has 60 days (check your state laws which may differ) to complete the evaluation or deny your request in writing. If denied, I would recommend seeking an advocate or an attorney for assistance. There are other ways to pursue an evaluation.

Finally, goals need to be revisited and reworked. This should occur at your annual IEP meeting. You can request at any time to hold an IEP meeting. Goals can be administratively changed if they’re very minor, but most changes require a full IEP team meeting. Go back through the SMART part of this blog when reworking goals. Remember that goals are ever changing. Goals that have not been met within two years should be revised. Perhaps it is not a goal that is necessary at this time, and you can change course. Sometimes a child is bored trying to complete the same task over and over, and they, too, need something different.

If You Have Questions, Consult an Education Law Attorney

And there you have it – SMARTER goals for your child’s IEP. Be sure to check out the next blog where we dive into transition planning. Should you have questions, need guidance, or seek representation in Pennsylvania, reach out to Purdy Law Office, LLC – your trusted partner in handling IEPs.

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