On your child’s IEP, somewhere along the way you probably saw the word “trials” on the IEP. It’s usually used in an IEP goal, but you may see it on your IEP progress monitoring reports too.

For example, Jacob will do XYZ in 4 out of 5 trials across….and then the rest of that IEP goal.

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But what does trials mean on an IEP? For IEP parents like us, what does 4 out of 5 trials mean? What about opportunities? Is that the same thing? Field of?

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Let’s dig in so that you understand it and can be a better advocate for your child. As I often say, “the knowledge base I wish I didn’t have to have.” But I do. And I enjoy explaining it so parents can be better advocates.

“Trials” as a Part of an IEP Goal

In the context of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), “trials” usually refers to the number of opportunities or attempts a student has to demonstrate mastery of a skill or goal. Each “trial” represents a chance for the student to perform the task or meet the objective outlined in their IEP.

For example, if a goal in an IEP is for a student to correctly answer math problems involving addition with regrouping, the IEP might specify that the student needs to complete the task with a certain level of accuracy over a set number of trials.

This could mean the student needs to demonstrate proficiency in solving addition problems correctly over several different practice sessions or assessments.

The number of trials required can vary depending on the complexity of the goal, the individual needs of the student, and the recommendations of the educational team developing the IEP.

Example of Trials on an IEP Goal

Here’s an example of an IEP goal with trials:

Goal: By the end of the school year, given a paragraph-level reading passage at [student’s current reading level], [Student] will correctly answer comprehension questions with at least 80% accuracy over three consecutive trials.

Explanation:

  • Target Skill: Reading comprehension
  • Measurement: Accuracy in answering comprehension questions
  • Criteria for Success: At least 80% accuracy
  • Number of Trials: Three consecutive trials

This goal indicates that the student should be able to understand and answer questions about a paragraph-level reading passage independently and accurately.

The requirement of three consecutive trials ensures that the student can consistently demonstrate mastery of the skill over time and different reading materials.

Progress Monitoring Trials for an IEP

To measure and monitor the trials outlined in an IEP goal, teachers typically follow a structured process:

  1. Selection of Materials: The teacher selects appropriate reading passages or materials that align with the student’s current reading level and the objectives of the goal.
  2. Administration of Trials: The teacher provides the student with the selected reading passage and comprehension questions. This can be done during individual or group instruction, depending on the student’s needs and the classroom setup.
  3. Data Collection: During each trial, the teacher records the student’s responses to the comprehension questions, noting whether they are correct or incorrect. This data collection can be done using various methods, such as checklists, scoring rubrics, or digital tracking tools. Get our free IEP Data Collection Sheets.
  4. Analysis of Results: After each trial, the teacher analyzes the student’s performance to determine their level of mastery. This involves calculating the percentage of correct responses and identifying any patterns or areas of difficulty.
  5. Progress Monitoring: The teacher tracks the student’s progress over multiple trials, looking for trends in performance and making adjustments to instruction as needed. This ongoing monitoring allows the teacher to assess whether the student is making sufficient progress toward meeting the goal.
  6. Documentation and Reporting: The teacher documents the results of each trial and maintains accurate records of the student’s progress. This information is typically included in progress reports and shared with the student’s IEP team, including parents/guardians, to facilitate communication and decision-making about the student’s educational plan.

Do the trials have to be 80% or 100%?

This is up to the IEP team. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this.

I see a lot of “funky math” and tricky language happen when it comes to trials.

If we are talking about the reading comprehension example above, the child will be considered to have achieved the goal if they get 2/3 of the trials correct. That’s 67%. Meh.

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For reading comprehension? On one hand, I’d say, sure everyone has an off day, have non-preferred reading content or something else contributing to not comprehending that specific reading assignment.

On the other hand, shouldn’t we strive for 100%? Is 67% acceptable, that you will only comprehend 2/3 of everything you read?

The other piece or problem that I see with a lot of IEPs is that once the trials are over, the focus on that skill goes out the window. To have mastered a skill, you must be able to apply it across all environments.

Not just in a classroom with a reading passage that you’ve read numerous times, and have no distractions because you’re alone in the resource room.

For safety stuff, I always fight for 100% achievement.

Here’s an example of a personal safety IEP goal with trials:

Goal: By the end of the school year, given various scenarios and prompts related to personal safety, [Student] will demonstrate appropriate safety responses in at least 8 out of 10 trials.

Explanation:

  • Target Skill: Personal safety awareness and response
  • Measurement: Demonstration of appropriate safety responses
  • Criteria for Success: At least 8 out of 10 trials
  • Number of Trials: 10 trials

This goal aims to develop the student’s ability to recognize and respond to various personal safety situations effectively. The trials would involve presenting the student with different scenarios, such as crossing the street, interacting with strangers, or identifying potential hazards, and assessing their responses.

The goal’s success criteria indicate that the student should demonstrate appropriate safety behaviors in the majority of the trials, showing a consistent understanding and application of safety principles.

80%? Ok, you talk to the wrong stranger or mess up just 2 times out of 10 crossing the street….you’re dead. Not trying to be funny or morbid here. It’s the truth.

Some IEP goals have much larger real-life consequences than others if a child does not master the skill.

‘Trials’ and ‘Opportunities’ on an IEP

In the context of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), “trials” and “opportunities” are often used interchangeably, though they can have slightly different nuances depending on the context and how they are specified in the goals.

  1. Trials: Trials typically refer to the number of attempts or instances in which a student has the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a specific skill or goal. Each trial represents a chance for the student to perform the task or meet the objective outlined in their IEP. For example, a goal might specify that the student needs to achieve a certain level of accuracy over a set number of trials, such as three consecutive trials.
  2. Opportunities: Similarly, opportunities refer to the chances or instances in which a student can engage with a skill or task targeted in their IEP. Like trials, opportunities represent the occasions when the student can demonstrate their progress or mastery. For instance, a goal might state that the student will have 10 opportunities to independently solve math problems with a certain level of accuracy.

While trials and opportunities are often used interchangeably, they both emphasize the importance of providing the student with multiple chances to demonstrate progress and achieve their goals within the framework of their IEP.

“Field of” vs. “Trials”

In the context of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), “trials” and “fields of” serve different purposes:

  1. Trials: Trials refer to the number of opportunities or attempts a student has to demonstrate mastery of a specific skill or goal. Each trial represents a chance for the student to perform the task or meet the objective outlined in their IEP. For example, in a reading comprehension goal, the IEP might specify that the student needs to achieve a certain level of accuracy over a set number of trials, such as three consecutive trials.
  2. Fields of: “Fields of” typically refers to the domains or areas of functioning that are addressed within the IEP. These can include academic, social-emotional, behavioral, communication, and functional skills, among others. When discussing “fields of,” it’s often in the context of identifying the various aspects of a student’s development or needs that will be addressed through their IEP. For example, an IEP might have goals in the academic field of reading comprehension, the social-emotional field of self-regulation, and the functional field of independent living skills.

In summary, “trials” focus on the number of attempts needed to achieve a specific goal, while “fields of” encompass the different areas or domains of development that are addressed within the IEP.

I hope this helps you better understand your IEP and goals.

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