During each annual IEP meeting, you and the rest of your child’s IEP team will review your child’s progress toward meeting his annual goals. You’ll also develop new goals for the coming year.
Setting annual IEP goals is much like planning the next “destination” in your child’s journey. First, you need to figure out how he’s doing now. (Where is he now?) Then you can decide what help he needs to reach his next set of goals. (Where should he go next and how can he get there?)
Here we explain the process of goal-setting and how to set annual goals that are effective and appropriate for your child.
Start at the Baseline
Before setting IEP goals for the coming year, you and the rest of the IEP team will review your child’s present level of performance (also known as PLOP, PLAAFP and PLP). This includes details on how your child handles academic subjects and functional activities in school, such as writing with a pencil, walking in the hallway or socializing.
From that baseline, you and the team will set new annual goals for your child. Make sure these goals are directly aligned with the PLOP. For instance, the PLOP may state that your child has trouble decoding or “sounding out” new words. If so, his IEP should include a goal to address that decoding skill. The IEP goals should allow your child to participate in the general education curriculum.
“You don’t have to wait until next year’s IEP meeting to find out what progress your child is making toward his IEP goals.”
Your child may have a standards-based IEP. If so, the PLOP will show how he’s doing compared to the state standards for students in the same grade. The annual IEP goals for addressing his learning and attention issues should line up with those standards.
How to Write SMART IEP Goals
Annual goals should not be vague, general recommendations for improvement. Well-written IEP goals can help you and the rest of the IEP team determine whether your child progressing.
Make sure the goals are SMART. That’s short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time-bound. Here is how that looks:
- Specific: Each goal is specific in naming the skill or subject area and the targeted goal. Details matter!
- Measurable: The goal is stated in a way that your child’s progress can be measured by standardized tests, curriculum-based measurements or screening.
- Attainable: The goal represents progress that is realistic for your child.
- Results-oriented: Progress will be measured by what your child will be able to do.
- Time-bound: Each goal should be something your child can achieve by the end of the year, with the right supports and services.
What does this look like in practice? A SMART annual goal might state, “By the end of the school year, given a second-grade book, John will be able to read a passage orally at 110–130 words per minute with random errors. His progress will be measured using an oral fluency test.” This is much more useful than a vague (and not-so-SMART) goal that simply states: “John will improve his reading skills.”
Progress Reports to Parents
You don’t have to wait until next year’s IEP meeting to find out what progress your child is making toward his IEP goals. The school should provide progress reports during the year. Many schools do this when report cards are issued. Ask the IEP team when you can expect to receive such updates on your child’s progress.
Now you know the purpose and some best practices for developing annual IEP goals. If the IEP team doesn’t follow these guidelines, don’t hesitate to ask questions or speak up. You have the right to advocate for effective and appropriate annual goals for your child.