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Memorandum: Examples and Tips of Making IEP Annual Goals Measurable

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TO: Special Education Teachers and Special Education Coordinators
FR: Nissan B. Bar-Lev, Director of Special Education

These examples were compiled by Ms. Donita O'Donnell, who also wrote the DPI handbook "A Guide for Understanding and Developing IEPs".

First of all, you will find it more difficult to write clear and measurable goals if you have not first written a clear and measurable present level of performance.

Remember that "measurable" means you can count it or observe it. When you are tempted to write unmeasurable terms such as "difficulty," "weak," "unmotivated," "limited," "defiant," "irresponsible," "uncooperative," and so on, stop and ask yourself, "What do I see the student doing that makes me make this judgement call?" What you actually see the student doing is the measurable content you need to identify in your present level.

So how do I make the Present Levels of Educational Performance and Annual Goals measurable?

To make something measurable, you can specify a grade or age level performance if that grade or age level performance is clear or definable through district standards or other curriculum or through known scope and sequence materials, developmental materials, or through testing materials.

You can also make it measurable by indicating a rate, for example, 3 out of 4 times, 80% of the time, 5 minutes out of every 10, 75% success. When using a rate, be sure you can specify and measure the "whole part." In other words, if you say a student will do something 80% of the time, does that mean you or someone will have to watch the student 24 hours a day, 5 days a week? If the whole time would be unreasonable, than modify your expectation to specify the whole time that will be used for purposes of accountability, for example, 80% of any 15-minute observation.

You can make student behavior measurable by defining the factors surrounding the behavior. These include precipitating events, such as, "when asked to work independently," or environmental factors, such as, "when dealing with female authority figures," or other patterns, such as "always after lunch," "in math class," "on the playground." Finally, you can make behavior measurable by identifying the results of the behavior, "Removal from the classroom has increased [this behavior]." If this looks like a Functional Behavioral Assessment, it is. Even informally, the techniques of an FBA can do wonders for making your present levels clear and measurable.

Finally, remember that you probably know most, if not all, of what you need to know to make these components of the IEP measurable. Learn to ask yourself questions that help you focus on what you know that is critical to this task. Here are some of those questions:

  • What is the area of need for this student? ¨
  • How is this area of need related to the student's disability?
  • How does this area of need impact (a) the student's progress in the general curriculum? (b) the student's need to remediate, compensate for, or cope with his or her disability?
  • What does the IEP team want this student to know or be able to do as a result of this IEP?
  • Why can't he or she do it now?
  • What is it about the student's disability that interferes with achieving this knowledge or skill?
  • Why does this student need an IEP for this as compared to other student's who don't need an IEP?
  • What is the actual (measurable) starting point for this knowledge or skill?
  • How will we know if the student can or succeeds at doing this?
  • What will I see this student doing when he/she reaches this goal?
  • How is this relevant to this student's learning needs?
  • What effect does reaching this goal have on closing the student's learning gaps (1) relative to his/her peers? (2) Relative to his/her lifelong learning needs?
  • Did I avoid vague or unclear words or phrases?
  • How can I measure this knowledge or skill or how can I measure indicators of this knowledge or skill?

The following are some present levels of performance with notations to show why they aren't clear or measurable, and how to make them clear and measurable.

"Billie is a 3rd grader who has difficulty with reading, written language and math".

REWRITE: Billie is a 3rd grader with reading and math skills at 1st grade level. In written language, Billie spells at an early 1st grade level. She knows that sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period, but she has no other consistent understanding of capitalization or punctuation. She is unable to write a complete simple sentence.

"Billie is successful with modifications and special education programming and resource assistance, earning passing grades in all classes".

REWRITE: With modified writing assignments and adult assistance in reading and math, her teachers have indicated that she demonstrates average understanding of most classrooms content. She listens attentively but does not participate in complex problem-solving activities in math, science, and social studies.
"Billie tries very hard, but has difficulty completing assignments and turning them in on time".

REWRITE: Teachers report that she is rarely off task, yet she fails to turn in assignments on average once a day. Another 3 assignments per week, on average, are turned in incomplete.

"Joan's reading is at least a year below that of her grade level peers, and her writing skills are poor".

REWRITE: Joan's reading decoding skills are 4 years below her grade level (8th grade); her comprehension skills are 2 to 4 years below grade level (variation due to familiarity with content); and her listening comprehension skills are at grade level. In written language, she is able to write a complete sentence, and will combine simple sentences into compounded sentences when reminded to do so. Spelling of phonetically predictable words is at approximately 5th grade level, but she is unable to recall the correct spelling of most unpredictable words, including "would, show, they, from," and others. She has learned capitalization and punctuation rules, requiring only occasional reminders when she forgets to apply them.

"Dolly dislikes school and teachers. She often violates school rules. She becomes angry easily and refuses to obey authorities or take responsibility for her actions".

REWRITE: Dolly does not initiate conversation with adults in the school setting, and only responds to adult communication when the adult confirms Dolly's attention and eye contact. In unstructured or loosely structured settings, Dolly's activity level increases and she is more likely to violate school rules, or become agitated or angry. She has been given 8 disciplinary notices in the past 10 days and 27 since school started 3 months ago. All of these situations occurred during transition times or when the teacher was not in the classroom. When angry, she doesn't know how to de-escalate and has not been willing to discuss the situation after it is over.
Now, let's try some goals for each of the above.

"Billie will increase reading skills. Billie will increase math skills. Billie will increase written language skills to 3rd grade level".

REWRITES: Billie will increase reading skills to 2nd grade level. Billie will increase math skills by 1.5 grade levels. Billie will demonstrate written language skills that include spelling at 2nd grade level, use of complete sentences, and correct punctuation and capitalization.

"Billie will pass all classes".

REWRITE: With modifications and assistance, Billie will continue her progress with basic skill activities in general education classes and improve her performance with problem-solving activities in math., science, and social studies by applying problem-solving techniques to at least one such problem per week in each of math., science, and social studies.

"Billie will complete assignments and turn them in 80% of the time".

REWRITE: Provided with modified assignments and adult assistance, Billie will complete assignments and turn them in 80% of the time. NOTE: While this goal is clear and measurable, it fails to acknowledge the important information shared by the teachers; that is, that Billie is on-task most of the time, so obviously she needs something more to help her complete the work and turn it in. If we don't know what that is, we provide a broadly stated condition that allows us to identify her need. Remember that an IEP isn't a contract, and sometimes, as in this situation, it is important to specify what the district will do to help the student. One other

NOTE: This may be more appropriate as an objective related to some other area of need, rather than a goal on its own.

"Joan will increase her reading and writing skills by one year".

REWRITE: Using compensatory strategies, Joan will comprehend written materials at the 8th grade level with 70% accuracy, and with remediation, she will increase her decoding and reading comprehension skills to the 6th grade level.

ALSO: Joan will improve her written language and spelling skills so that she can write a clear, cohesive, and readable paragraph consisting of at least 3 sentences, including compound and complex sentences that are clearly related.

"Dolly will demonstrate recognition of positive attitudes in school. OR Dolly will demonstrate social skills at the 6th grade level".

REWRITE: Dolly will demonstrate pro-social skills that result in interactions with adults and peers as defined by the short-term objectives:

Dolly will initiate conversation perceived as pleasant by the adults at least 2 different times each day.
Dolly will identify at least 2 strategies for recognizing when she can involve herself in conversations or other school activities.
Dolly will employ strategies she identifies so that she can be an active participant in social and school-related conversations and activities at least once each day.

"Dolly will decrease her anger and her violation of school rules".

REWRITE: Provided with anger management training and adult support, Dolly will remove herself from environments that cause her to lose control of her behavior so that she eliminates the need for disciplinary notices.

Here are some more goals, and how to improve them:

Present Level: While student turns in most of his assignments on time, he frequently fails to fill out his assignment notebook.

Goal: Student will fill out assignment notebook 100% of the time.

Inquiry: What is the purpose of this goal? If the student gets his work in, why do we need to add the assignment notebook task? Remember the relevancy question. Possibly, the IEP should specify a supplementary aid and service: "not required to maintain an assignment notebook."

Goal: Student will maintain his current level of self-advocacy skills in order to meet his daily needs 100% of the time.

Inquiry: What is the purpose of this goal? What do we want the student to know or be able to do as a result of this goal? Why can't he/she do it now? Is the area of need related to these "daily needs?" What are they? What is interfering with success in this area of need?

Or is this just a maintenance goal? If so, providing support for maintenance doesn't require a goal. You can still provide that support without a goal. Why does this student require an IEP? For modifications? For supports?

Is the student, otherwise at grade level in all skills? Or at a level needed for post-secondary success? If not, identify areas of need that are inadequate and build the supports and accommodations into that goal.

Here is an example:

GOAL: Student will demonstrate the planning and communication skills needed so that he is provided with accommodations for his disability and supports necessary for completion of assigned tasks at school and on the job.

"Student will organize his work so that he can pass all classes".

Rewrite: Student will establish and maintain a system for organizing his work and other responsibilities so that he completes required work and assignments and turns them in on time 80% of the time.
"Kyle will participate in adapted physical education activities when provided with adapted equipment".

Rewrite: Provided with adapted equipment and assistance, Kyle will acquire skill with 3 or more different leisure time physical activities that promote flexibility and tone in arms and upper body.


More IEP Checklists

Our thanks to the staff of Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7 (CESA) for permission to use this sdocument. This district won the Wrightslaw "Best School Sites Contest."



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