Let’s talk about writing SMART IEP goals for special education!
It is no secret that a huge part of the job of special education teacher or service provider is writing IEPs. Writing IEPs can be challenging – especially if you are new to it. If you find yourself with challenges while writing IEPs, I am here with some tips on writing your goals.
First and foremost, there is one thing that IEP goals should NOT be and that is vague. All IEP goals should be SMART; meaning, written in the SMART format. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s take a look at one ELA goal I use often in my classroom:
By (date). When presented with flash cards in a field of three, student will identify all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet with 100% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials over three sessions, as measured by teacher observation and data tracking.
Now, let me break this goal down into each of the SMART components:
The first step in writing SMART IEP goals is to make the goal specific. This is to ensure the goal is easily understandable by any person who may read the goal. This step is important and possibly the biggest step, because it aids in naming the skill you want the student to have. In the goal above, the specific portion is: identify all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet. Now, if you know a student may take a little longer to learn their alphabet, you can break it down to something more simple such as: identify 20/26 lowercase letters of the alphabet. Whatever your goal may be, make it specific and clear for any reader to understand.
Next, when writing SMART IEP goals, the goals should be measurable. The goals should be written in such a way that the reader understands exactly how progress will be tracked on the goal. In the example goal, the measurable portion is: as measured by teacher observation and data tracking. It is standard practice to include two different types of measurement in the goal. Types of measurement include, teacher created test, criterion referenced test, student portfolio, standardized test, data tracking, and observation. Whatever measurement route you choose, make sure it is something you are comfortable with implementing in your classroom.
We all want our students to learn as much as they can and as quickly as they can however, when writing SMART IEP goals, we need to make sure that the goals we write are attainable. If the goal is too ambitious, then it is not attainable for our students. We can also make sure to add any materials or additional guidance your student/s may need to attain their goal. Using the goal above, the attainable portion of the goal is: when presented with flash cards in a field of three.
To make your goals attainable, you may also add prompting such as, “When given moderate physical teacher support…” or “When presented with a visual and no more than two verbal prompts…” Putting prompting in the goal is a way of documenting how the student is being prompted as well as how much the student is prompted – it is always best to use the least restrictive prompt methods as possible, so keep that in mind when writing your goals but, do what is best for your students.
Your SMART IEP goals should be relevant to the student/s and their learning needs. To ensure the goals I write for my students are relevant, I often first assess the student to see what they know. Next, I look at my state’s learning standards to see what the student needs to know. I then write a goal based on the student’s individual needs. The goal example I used above is relevant to my student’s learning because they need to learn their alphabet and alphabetic sounds before they learn to read.
Not all of my students’ goals are academic based, however. Their unique needs paired with their disability means that the student/s will need some kind of functional goal such as writing, fine motor, toileting help, communication, behavior, etc. The IEP goals should be written to address each individual student’s unique needs.
The final step in writing SMART IEP goals is to make the goal time bound. Every goal your students have should be measured over a period of time. You can do this by adding a date the student will achieve the goal, for example: By (date). When presented with flash cards in a field of three, student will identify all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet with 100% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials over three sessions, as measured by teacher observation and data tracking. The date should reflect one year from when the goal is written.
One major piece of advice I can offer you for writing SMART IEP goals, is to stay organized. Find an organizational tool that works for you so that the process can be as smooth as possible!
If you need any help setting up your classroom, or organizing IEP Data Bins, check out more blogs on Simply Special Ed!
If you have any questions about writing SMART IEP goals, let me know!