5 Tips on How to Write Outstanding IEP goals
5 tips on how to write outstanding IEP goals

IEP Goals:

IEP goal writing is definitely not the fun part of teaching in special education but it is definitely something that we should be good at. My favorite part about being an educator is watching my students learn and grow, but the paperwork is just darn annoying.   

You have probably sat in a lot of meetings discussing the IEP in length, especially the present levels.  

However, to me, IEP goals are like the bread and butter of the IEP.  

Writing outstanding IEP goals can be easy if you follow these 5 tips that talk about SMART goals!

Using the SMART format is just an acronym for:

     S specific

     M measurable

     A attainable

     R relevant

     T time-bound

Let's look at Johnny's example of an IEP goal:

By June 2023, Given numeral flashcards in a field of four, Johnny will identify numbers 0-20 with 90% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials over five consecutive sessions, as measured by the special education teacher using teacher-created materials for data collection.

How about we talk about the different components of the SMART format for IEP goal writing. 

Data collection sheet for independent work systems

Tip #1 Be Specific!

In order for you to write an IEP goal that is effective, the goal needs to be specific.  There have been too many times I have inherited an IEP and the goals are so broad and vague that there was no way to track progress.   These specific goals should answer key questions like?

  • What steps need to be taken?
  • Who is responsible for taking the data?
  • What needs to be accomplished and by when?

In the example goal written above, the SPECIFIC part of the goal is identify numbers 0-20 You want to make sure that you are specific as you can with the goal so that any teacher can easily understand what is expected of them and the student. 

I use a lot of my data tracking sheets for this very purpose! You can see those here!   

march reading comprehension passages for students with special needs

Tip #2 Make the IEP Goals Measurable

This is the most important part of the IEP goal writing.  You want to make sure that your goals are measurable.  Let's make it easy as possible to track student progress and when the student has mastered the goal.  Try answering this question:

How will you be tracking this goal?

One of the best tips I can give is to create a tool to track the progress first so that you can write the goal correctly. 

For example, if you have a reading comprehension goal for a student, maybe find a worksheet that would be able to track the progress that you would like and then write the goal using that specific worksheet.  Now every time you assess the IEP goals, you have the tool already on hand!  I use these FREE reading comprehension worksheets for all my comprehension goals because of the 3 different levels that are offered!

boy with down syndrome with adapted book special needs

Tip #3 Make them Attainable 

When you are thinking about a specific, measurable goal, make sure that it's a feasible goal.  You don't want to make the bar so high that the student can't ever achieve mastery!  If the goal is too ambitious, then it is not attainable for our students.

Using the above Johnny reference, the attainable part is Given numeral flashcards in a field of four.  This gives students and teachers the additional guidance that is needed for the IEP goals to be reachable and attainable. 

Other ways that you can make sure that your IEP goals are attainable is by using phrases such as:

  • “given no more than 2 prompts…”
  • “presented with a visual cue…”
  • “When given the option of two incentives…”
  • “When given moderate teacher assistance…”

Putting phrases like this in the IEP goals will assure students are able to attain the goal.

paraprofessionals taking data for independent work systems

Tip #4 Make them Relevant 

Think about why you are even setting this goal.  You want to make sure that it is relevant to the student.  If the student is in 3rd grade and you are talking about writing a goal that is about banking, you may want to rethink your goal.

When I start thinking about the goal in mind, I think about the data that was collected prior to the writing of the IEP goals.  I look to see where the gap is between what the student knows and where they are supposed to be according to the state standards. 

If we look at the example goal about Johnny, it is relevant because he is in kindergarten student that needs to know his numbers. 

Tip # 5:  Make it Time-bound

To measure the success of the goal, everyone must understand when exactly that goal has been reached!   All the IEP goals that you write need to be measured over a specific amount of time.  By adding a date and how many sessions to your goal, you are making sure that your IEP goals are time-bound.  

The best piece of advice that I can give you is to make sure that you are staying organized!  Find an organizational tool that works for you and your needs so that IEP writing can be a breeze.

In conclusion, if you are looking to track your data digitally, you can go over to this blog post and read all about using Google Forms to track your data!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about writing SMART goals. 

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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