IEP Goals

  • How many goals should an IEP have?
  • Who writes IEP goals?
  • Can parents submit IEP goal ideas?
  • What if my child doesn’t meet their IEP goals?

While IEP goals are not the most important part of the IEP, they are one of the main parts. A parent (and IEP team) can only effectively monitor a student’s progress if there are measurable IEP goals with objective baselines. Writing a good IEP goal is part art, part science.

IEP goals

As a parent, you may have a lot of questions about IEP goals.

I hope to answer all your questions about IEP goals.

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How to Choose IEP Goals

SMART goals for IEP
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals
  1. How are IEP goals determined? Your child’s IEP goals will be based upon the needs that are described in the Present Levels section of the IEP. In my professional opinion, the most important section of the IEP is the Present Levels section. The Present Levels section is what drives the IEP. So what gets put into Present Levels? The results of your child’s IEP evaluations. Needs determine goals. IEPs are needs-driven, not diagnosis driven.
  2. Who writes IEP goals? Actually, anyone! The spirit of IDEA is that the team draws up the IEP together. However, with day-to-day responsibilities, the work is often divided up. And, after all, it makes sense for the OT to write the goals related to the OT needs. That being said, nowhere in IDEA does it say that only an OT can write an OT goal and so on. Bottom line is that the entire IEP should be a collaborative effort, not a directed one. If IEP goals are just read to you as a parent and you are not getting to have any input, that’s not collaborative. Make sure you are participating in all 5 essential parts of the IEP process.
  3. What if my child does not meet their IEP goals? This is a common question. For a full explanation, I recommend that you read the link attached to that question. Not meeting IEP goals may be an indicator that a child is being denied FAPE. But, it can also mean a lot of other things. That post will also give you action steps to take if your child is not meeting their IEP goals.
  4. What’s the point of an IEP if my child has the same goals every year? This is a huge red flag that your IEP is junk. The whole point of having IEP goals specific to your child is to monitor progress. If you are seeing the same goals year after year, it’s time to really engage in the process. I have a free IEP troubleshooting course that can guide you through what to do.
  5. How many goals should there be on an IEP? IDEA does not define this. Nor do any state regs, to my knowledge. IEPs are to be individualized so it will vary from child to child. There’s a lot to consider–how many areas of need, how many hours in a day, the child’s skill level, and so on. My son has a lot of needs and is programmed every Monday through Friday from 8:30-5:30 and we still don’t get to everything. And that’s ok. For some kids, you’re just not going to be able to hit every need, every day. As a parent, make sure you are participating in all 5 parts of the IEP process so that yours and your child’s priorities are taken into account when deciding goals. And, know that at least per IDEA, there are no “have-tos” or “can’ts.” I hear a lot of “We can’t have more than 6 goals on an IEP.” Their school district policy may state that or use it as a best practice, but again, IDEA makes no determination of how many goals there should be. Keep pushing if it’s something you want.
  6. My child’s goals sometimes disappear from year to year. Is that normal? Common? Yes. Normal, not really. Again, IEP goals are written so that parents and schools can measure progress. If a goal disappears, what does it mean? That the child has achieved it? Or did someone just make a clerical error? Is this not a priority anymore? It’s ok to remove a goal from an IEP as long as the team is in agreement. A student’s needs and priorities will change over time. I have an IEP Goal Tracker for parents to use to help you monitor this. But no, goals should not just disappear from an IEP at renewal time without explanation and agreement from the team.
  7. Can parents submit IEP goal ideas? Absolutely! Again, the IEP is meant to be a collaborative approach with your ideas and priorities in mind. Just remember that they are based on needs.
  8. How do you know if a goal is measurable or appropriate? Many IEP teams use the SMART IEP goal acronym. Additionally, here is an IEP Goal Formula you can use to make sure they are measurable. Both graphics are below.
  9. What if there is a goal on the IEP that I don’t want? A parent’s concerns and priorities should always be taken into consideration, but ultimately it is a team decision. If there is a goal on the IEP that is just not something you want your child to be working on, have the data ready to support your other priorities, as well as some replacement goal ideas.
  10. What’s more important-IEP goals or grades? That’s going to be a personal decision. If you click and read that link, you’ll get many more items to consider regarding IEP goals and grades.
IEP goal formula for special education

I hope this helps. As always, I strongly encourage you to click around through the links I have provided in this post for more information.

If you have any other questions that I can add to this, let me know in the Facebook group.

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