How to Write Meaningful and Measurable IEP Goals.

How to Write IEP Goals.

IEP goals are the future. IEP Present Levels is where the child is now; goals are where we want them to be. Writing IEP goals, while based on data, is part art, part science. It’s also something I find that many educators are not prepared for or trained in. Colleges tend to be more focused on pedagogy than the IEP process when it comes to special education.

And many college professors haven’t been in an IEP meeting in decades, if ever.

How to write IEP goals

Hence, there is a huge disconnect between college degrees in Special Education, and what really happens day-to-day. (If you wish to listen to the podcast instead of reading this, here you go.)

Writing Good IEP Goals

Writing good IEP goals starts with the SMART formula. I have a goal-creating formula below. But, your IEP goals should all meet the following criteria.

SMART goals for IEP
Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time Limited.

Who writes IEP goals?

IDEA does not define this. Like everything else in the IEP, IEP goals are a team decision. Teams usually farm out the duties to whoever oversees that discipline. IE- the Occupational Therapist writes the OT goal. The PT writes the PT goal and so on.

A parent can suggest IEP goals. You can submit your suggestions as part of your IEP parent concerns letter. (and make sure you follow up with the PWN!)

Or, don’t be afraid to contact the specific person ahead of time via email. A simple, “Dear speech therapist, Child’s annual IEP is in 3 months, and I was reviewing his existing IEP. Last year the goal was XYZ, how do you feel about adding or changing it to ABC, because…(and list your reasons).”

IEP development should be an ongoing process that includes open communication.

How to Write Goals and Objectives for an IEP.

IEP Objectives and Benchmarks

Many teams confuse IEP goals and IEP objectives. It helps to think of objectives as steps toward a goal. You can use the term benchmarks instead of objectives.

Benchmarks indicate the interim steps a child will take to reach an annual goal. They also serve as a measurement gauge to monitor a child’s progress and determine if the child is making sufficient progress towards attaining an annual goal. Using a roadmap analogy, benchmarks and short-term objectives are used to divide the trip to the final destination into concrete, smaller steps.


It’s important to note, that if your child takes an alternative standardized assessment, then benchmarks are a required component of the IEP. Here is the exact wording from IDEA.

benchmarks in IDEA

Examples of IEP Objectives

Here is one SEL IEP goal, with objectives listed below it. This is just to give you an example of how objectives and benchmark help a child toward the goal.

IEP Goal Example: The Student will develop social understanding skills as measured by the benchmarks listed below.

Objectives to support that IEP goal:

  • _____ will raise their hand and wait to be called on before talking aloud in group settings 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____will work cooperatively with peers in small group settings (ie. Share materials, allow peers to share different thoughts) 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____ will develop an understanding of the relationship between his/her verbalizations and actions/effect on others 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____ will engage in appropriate cooperative social play interactions initiated by others 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____ will engage in cooperative social play interactions by allowing others to make changes or alter the play routine 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____ will engage in appropriate turn-taking skills by attending to peer’s turn and waiting for own turn 4/5 opportunities to do so.
  • _____will appropriately acknowledge an interaction initiated by others by giving an appropriate response, either verbal or non-verbal.

If you just read that and are thinking, “Wow! That’s a great goal!” No worries, I have a whole list of IEP Social Skills goals right here.

How to Collect Data for IEP Goals.

On this site, you will find a whole separate post on IEP Progress Monitoring. You will find more on data collection in that article.

IEP Goal Bank

Like I said, no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are literally thousands of IEP goals for you to read and adapt as needed.

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