Individual Education Plans are written on the initial placement for a child once it is determined that they qualify as a student with a disability under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At least once each year, on or before the initial IEP date, the team must reconvene to determine new goals for the student.
Parents often feel anxious and insecure at IEP meetings. They are uncertain about how much to participate as they do not believe they have any suggestions to offer. Some parents believe that the educators have all the answers and the meeting is only a formality. Some parents may believe that their child’s IEP is not appropriate but do not know how to resolve the problem.
Individual Education Plans should be written for the individual child, not just a broad blanket statement which is used for every child. IEP goals should be written with the following words in mind:
• Goals should be specific
• Goals should be measureable
• Goals should be written using action words
• Goals should be realistic and relevant
• Goals should be time-limited.
Specific goals target areas of academic achievement, functional performance as well as behavioral improvement. Clear information is detailed so that the knowledge, skills and progress is all noted in the goal. For example, rather than a broad, difficult to understand goal like “Emma will improve study skills” which gives us little information; a better example would be “Emma will demonstrate skimming written material for essential information in content areas.”
In regards to goals being measurable, you must be able to count or observe the behavior in order to assess it for growth. An example of a measurable goal would be “Given second grade material, Emma will orally read 110 – 130 words per minute with no more than 5 errors.”
Action words in an IEP goal must also be stated in measurable terms. For example we want to increase a behavior in the area of need (reading) to a certain level of attainment (grade level, age level). You can note the previous example of Emma reading orally (reading) to grade level with level of proficiency.
IEP goals should also be relevant and realistic. You would not want your 2nd grade child reading at the 6th grade level when they are not yet at that developmental level. It is neither relevant for a child of that age, nor realistic.
Goals should also be time-limited. What does the child need to know and be able to do after one year of special education? What is the starting point for each of your child’s needs (that is present levels of academic achievement and functional performance)?
In the next few articles we will discuss more information on parents participating fully in the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for their child.