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Practical Tips For Setting Student IEP Goals

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As a special education teacher, it is mandatory to set appropriate goals on your Individualized Education Program (IEP) annually. Appropriately setting well-thought-out goals on the IEP allows students, with any disability, to achieve success, growth, and increase positive behaviors.

By tracking progress accurately, you can make sure success is happening. Overall, we know that this can be a daunting task; you have to know the student’s baseline, make sure you understand how the student learns and processes new information, accurately progress monitor the goals over time, and then determine if the student has mastered their goal. It takes a team to set these goals, including getting additional input from parents, principal, therapists, school nurse, and support staff.

"Each student’s IEP is unique and lays out the roadmap for their education journey, providing support, modifications, and accommodations that allow the student to achieve the most success possible in the school setting."

Goal mastery changes year to year. Your student’s road to success will be directed by your daily instruction based on your IEP goals, so here are some thoughtful and helpful tips to move forward with drafting an IEP.

1. Use parent input when possible.

Before you draft your initial IEP goals for each student, it is imperative that you include a case history review or interview with the student’s parents. The parent plays one of the most vital roles in their child’s education, and understanding their concerns regarding their student’s needs helps to set achievable goals for the future growth of their child. Providing opportunities for the parent to communicate with you about their overall thoughts on the challenges their student’s are experiencing will offer more information for you as a teacher and help you to better understand the student’s strengths, challenges, weaknesses, and overall learning style.

Parents are, by law, required to be an equal partner in their child’s IEP. Not only can they provide insight, but they can help collect valuable information along the way as their student works on their IEP goals. Use the parents as a tool to set up an IEP that creates measurable and attainable goals. Parents can be key when developing successful IEP goals for that particular student.

2. Use SMART IEP goals.

This acronym is short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound. Provide goals that are very specific to a subject or skill. If these points are not considered, a goal will easily fail as it does not provide enough detail.

Every goal should be measurable. Start with a data chart, curriculum, or tests to help measure progress. Attainable is one of the most important aspects of setting goals since it can help increase independence in your students. It can also discourage students from completing them if the goal is not clearly laid out and realistic. Results-Oriented can start small so the student can easily meet their goal and build upon that as they progress. Finally, Time-Bound—set these goals for the week, month, three months, and so on. Setting the endpoint gives the student a time frame and targets to achieve. It is also essential to make sure that your IEP is set to curriculum standards within your state.


The goal is specific to a subject or skill


Use: Data Charts, Curriculum, and tests to measure


Make sure the goal is clearly laid out and realistic


Start with a small goal and build upon it so that the goal grows bigger


Goals should be set for: Weekly, Monthly, Three Months, etc.

3. Use resources to help plan.

In addition to setting appropriate goals for your student’s IEP, it is important to help use resources to guide your process. State standards and regulations may change, so not only are you responsible for knowing what the student needs but for implementing these standards into each IEP goal. Take the extra step by setting up a resource binder (or an online file folder) filled with articles, a goal bank to build from, lesson plans, state standards, and more. References and tools will help guide you to better manage your classroom and communication with your student, their parents, and appropriate administration.

Here is a list of our trusted resources that can help you when planning.

These are just a few resources and ideas to help get you started and guide you on creating successful, individualized IEP goals for your students. Creating and cultivating relationships with your students and parents plays a vital role in the educational progress of each student. The best piece of advice is to keep up with state standards and regulations for your school district. Happy goal-setting!

Posted:  12 November, 2020
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Author: Diana Parafiniuk

Diana Parafiniuk, M.S., CCC-SLP, founded E-Therapy in 2009 after finding herself driving hundreds of miles per week. She knew there must be a better way to deliver speech therapy to students and...

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