Interested in developing solid goals for a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) but have no idea where to begin?  Well, work SMART, not hard!


Identify the target area.  Common Core standards provide simple metrics to choose from based on professional opinions of what student’s need based on their current grade level.  Use those as a launching point which can be found here.


This is one of the most integral pieces to developing a sound goal, it needs to be quantifiable.  Make sure every goal can be counted, numbered, or tracked.  For some goals, this is really easy, for others, it requires a bit of thinking.

How do I measure a qualitative goal?  Such as a student will stay on task or in their seat for a determined amount of time?  Simple!  Make a goal that can be quantified but as pieces of qualitative data.    For instance, if you are tracking how often a student stays on task, write what their specific goals would be, “given a verbal prompt, student will follow teacher instruction in a 10-minute session…”, quantify it by creating a simple 2×10 table and tally how often they are on task during a 1-minute interval.  Perhaps this is done by the data collector looking at the target each minute and making a tally, or every 30-seconds, either way, it turns a qualitative goal into a measurable unit.


The goal needs to be based on data.  What is the student’s baseline for the target behavior or academic area?  Are they performing at 20% independently?  What services or supports will be in place?  Is it reasonable to assume that a baseline of 20% will jump to a 80% by next year?  What do their previous goals look like and how often are those met?  Keep this information in mind as you develop your goals.  Short Term Objectives may be helpful here if the baseline is very low, as it can show how you will get them to that end goal.


Use action words!  What will the student do?  How will they accomplish this?  Remember, quantify, quantify, quantify!


Make sure the student has a clear end date for attaining this goal.  It is typically the day of the IEP + 1-year.  It also includes how many trials they will have to reach mastery of the goal.  Best-practice is 2/3 at 80% as each semester the data can be tracked, but this can be changed to reflect need.

Now it is your turn! Use this resource to practice each area.  Remember, special education is difficult enough, work SMART, not hard!

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