Measurable IEP Goals

Federal law, IDEA 2004: Sec. 300.320 Under Definition of Individualized Education Program:,  requires that the IEP include:
(2)(i) A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals designed to--
             (A) Meet the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and
             (B) Meet each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability;
      (ii) For children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards, a description of benchmarks or short-term objectives;
(3) A description of--
      (i) How the child's progress toward meeting the annual goals described in paragraph (2) of this section will be measured; and
      (ii) When periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals.
(In Mass. our special education state law requires
written progress reports to be submitted to parents at least as often as report cards or progress reports for students without disabilities. 28.07(3) ).

(IDEA 97: Sec. 300.347(a)(2) Under Content of IEP: "A statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks of short-term objectives."
Also, there is a strong emphasis in Part B that the goals of the IEP will be attached to the general curriculum.)

IEP Process Guide, by Massachusetts Department of Education, (June 2001) pages 17 & 18:

"IEP 4 (page 17) - Teams must connect current performance to measurable annual goals.  The IEP should be written with a direct connection between the current performance levels and the measurable annual goals."    

"IEP 4 (page 18) - Goals must be measurable and must specify the expected knowledge, skill, behavior or attitude to be achieved within the IEP period, typically one school year."

View the Massachusetts Department of Education, slide presentation on  IEP Measureable Goals  (August 2005).

Massachusetts Department of Education, tells that a goal should have 3 key components (the 3rd components has 3 parts, giving us 5 componets same as Reed Martin):

1. Skill Building
2. Data Collection Strategy that supports the measurable goal
3. Target Behavior, Condition and Criteria

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Samples of Measurable Goals

How to Develop an IEP That Measures Your Child's Progress Objectively
This article from Wrightslaw has some very helpful samples of measurable goals.

Sample 1:
                                   Kevin and Keyboarding

Let's look at an IEP goal where progress toward the goal is measured subjectively and objectively.

Our IEP goal says that "Kevin will learn keyboarding [or typing] skills."

If Kevin's progress toward this goal is measured subjectively, his IEP may state that Kevin’s progress toward learning keyboarding or typing will be determined by "Teacher Judgment" or "Teacher Observation" or
"Teacher - made Tests" with a score of "80%" as the criteria for success.

If the IEP is written properly, measuring progress objectively, the IEP may say "By the end of the first semester, Kevin will touch-type a passage of text 15 words per minute with not more than 5 errors on a 5
minute test. By the end of this academic year, Kevin will touch type a passage of text for 5 minutes at 35 words per minute with not more than 5 errors."

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Sample 2:
                       Megan and Reading

Let's look at Megan who is having trouble learning to read. Megan is in the fifth grade.  According to educational achievement tests, her reading decoding skills are at the beginning second grade level. Megan's parents request special education services to remediated their daughter's reading problems. How will her parents know if Megan is benefiting from the special education program?

If Megan is being appropriately educated, her test scores in reading will begin to improve as she goes through the process of remediation. An appropriately written IEP should indicate that after a year of remediation, Megan will make progress toward closing the gap between her ability and her problems in reading, and that her educational progress will be measured objectively with educational achievement tests.

The IEP may state that after a year of specialized instruction "Megan will be reading at the 4th grade level as measured by her scores on the Reading subtests of the Woodcock Johnson Achievement Test." During the
next year, Megan's IEP should include more goals in reading - with the ultimate goal of closing the gap between Megan's ability and her reading skills.

Parents can use percentile ranks in the IEPs, instead of grade equivalent scores.  Let's assume that Megan's reading test scores show that she is reading at the bottom 10th percentile, when compared to other children her age. After a year of appropriate special education, Megan probably will not be reading at the 50th percentile level (i.e. the "average" level for children her age).  An objective may state that after a year of special education, "Megan will be reading at the 25th percentile level" If Megan moves to the 25th percentile level in reading, she be making progress toward closing the gap.

Although Megan's reading skills are still below average, you see that she is making steady progress. Megan's progress in reading is being measured objectively with standardized tests.  Her progress is reported with numbers that can be compared over time.

                     First Steps

List your child's weaknesses, i.e., writing, arithmetic, spelling, typing, etc.

Next, list your child's present levels of performance in objective measurable terms.

For example :

Present Levels: My child reads a passage of text orally at the XYZ grade equivalent level as measured by the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT).


My child is reading a passage of text orally at the XYZ percent level as measured by the GORT.

These examples apply to all disabilities—learning disabilities, autism, speech language deficits, mental retardation, cerebral palsy. You need to know specifically where the child's deficits are, what skills are
deficient, what behavior needs to be changed.

The starting point should be observable and measurable percentile ranks, grade equivalents, age equivalents or standard scores. Where should this skill be in one year later?

Use objective measurable terms, not subjective terms.

Write down a goal that your child should achieve after one year of an appropriate special education.
 (Special education should be designed to remediated the child's weaknesses.)

Sample 3:

By May 15, [one year later], my child will be able to read a passage of text orally at the XYZ [insert the appropriate increased level here] grade equivalent level as measured by the GORT.


By May 15, [one year later], my child will be able to read a passage of text orally at the XYZ [insert the appropriate increased level here] percent level as measured by the GORT.

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Now, you have an objective measurable starting point and ending point, using norm referenced data. How do you get from Point A to Point B?

Your map from Point A to Point B includes short term objectives and/or benchmarks. To learn more about appropriate goals, objectives and benchmarks, you need to read publications about your child's specific disability. As you become more knowledgeable, you'll learn how to write objectives and benchmarks that lead to the annual goal.

Your Child's IEP Should Measure Learning - Objectively

Learning is change. Changes in academic skills can be measured objectively. Your child's test scores are like a series of photographs - they show that the child is learning and acquiring new skills or knowledge.

Remember: Change can and should be measured objectively - whether the area being measured is physical fitness, or educational progress.

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Goal component checklist

The goals should be what we expect of regular students.  The IEP goals explains how your child gets from "here" to "there".

Reed Martin, tells that a goal should have 5

1. The direction we want to go (increase or decrease)
2. the problem we are addressing 
3. the present level 
4. the amount of change, by the end of this IEP year
5. the methodology needed

To bring in Wrightslaw information and state and federal regulations, we are going to add a 6th components.

6. Measured by (standardized test)

 Reed's Martin example
Johnny will:
(1) increase
(2) in-seat on-task behavior
(3) from 0% of the time currently to
(4) 50% of the time by the end of this year
(5) by training the teacher in positive behavior interventions that give reinforcement to in-seat, on task behavior
and do not unintentionally reinforce Johnny by giving attention to out of seat behavior.

Another Reed's example:

Susie will:
(1) increase
(2) self-control
(3) from overreacting emotionally to stimuli that are normal in the classroom
(4) to the ability to function with limited supervision in classroom settings
(5) through individual counseling and reinforcement of positive behaviors in the classroom

The IEP would then specify the short term objectives in terms of the task or performance expected conditions under which the performance is expected the standard by which it will be measured, how the performance will be documented and how the results will be reported to the parents.

Lets label the components of Megan Reading goal, that was used in the example Wrightslaw in their article: 

(4b) By May 15, [one year later],
(1) my child will be able to, or Megan will increase her 
(2) passage reading of text orally
(3) from UV percent level currently [insert the appropriate Present Level Of Performance (PLOP) here] 
(4a) to the XYZ percent level [insert the appropriate increased level here] 
(5) using the ABC program [insert the appropriate program here] (information on methodology, click here).
(6) as measured by the
Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT), (information on standardized tests, click here).

Wrightslaw's refer to SMART Goals:
     Specific Measurable Action words Realistic and relevant Time limited

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This information and samples are from "Your Child's IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents"
written by Pamela Darr Wright, M.A., M.S.W.  Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Peter W. D. Wright, Esq.

Writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) For Success, by Barbara D. Bateman, Ph.D., J.D. new tag
 "Writing IEPs For Success" by Dr. Bateman, article can be found on LD Online, the Author also wrote the book:

"Better IEPs: How to Develop Legally Correct & Educationally Useful Programs",
  also by Dr. Bateman, you can check it out on our Recommend Book page.

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Check out this Minnesota University website, it address 4 area of importance:
    1. Criteria for Developing Appropriate Goals
    2. The Stranger Test
    3. The Dead Man's Test (my favorite)
    4. Annual Goal Help sheet - List the 5 components of goal (matches Reed Martin's), includes examples of each:

1. direction of change
2. deficit or excess
3. present level of performance
4. the expected annual ending level of performance; and
5. resources needed to accomplish the expected level of performance.

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Number of Goals

Under Federal law, IDEA and state special education;
      there is NO LIMIT stated in either law on the number of goals contain in an IEP.

IEP Process Guide, by Massachusetts Department of Education, (June 2001) pages 18:

"IEP 4 (page 18) - Most IEP's should include only three to four direction-setting goals.  However,
Team is responsible for making the final determination of the number and types of goals that
are included in the IEP.  Remember, though, an IEP is not a daily, weekly
or monthly lesson plan
but rather is a guide that supports the development of these
other plans."

Federal Reg., Section 300.347(a)(2)
Requires that each child's IEP include:

"A statement of measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives, related to
(i) meeting the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and progress in the general curriculum ...; and
(ii) meeting each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability....".

(Read Wrightslaw's Q&A on: Is There a Limit on IEP Goals? Long-Term Planning & Your Child's IEP

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Related articles:

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Proper IEP's (List 6 components of benchmarks list of keywords)

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Some school systems have posted examples of Goals and Objectives:

IEP Goals and Objectives Bank 177 pages of goals from Redmond, Oregon school district. 14 
(Original on Bend-La Pine school district website in Redmond, Oregon, named: RedmondGoalBank073003.pdf)
The file was saved on Bridges4kids web site.

(Special Education Goals and Objectives, from Nebraska, Educational Service Unit 10 (ESU-10) - No longer available 12/06) 22

Examples and Tips of Making IEP Annual Goals Measurable, from Wisconsin, Cooperative Educational Service Agency No. 7 (CESA-7)

IEP4U.COM has over 4000 (no longer free 10/06) Goals and Objectives (IEP-ITP) each with changeable benchmarks in California format

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One of our original webpages, created September 10, 2002, by Melody Orfei
Webpage last modified on December 13, 2011 - V13, by Melody Orfei