Establishing IEP Goals that are Clear, Appropriate, and Measurable [IEP 035]
When you’re reviewing your child’s IEP goals, what should you be looking for to determine if they have been met? How can you tell if the goals are appropriate to begin with?
Vickie and I discuss the importance of not only understanding IEP goals that are created for your child but also knowing how to measure the progress of those goals.
Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.
What We Discuss in This Episode:
- Where do IEP goals come from and where to even begin putting them together?
- The importance of reviewing past data in determining new goals
- What to look for when reviewing prior goals
- Understanding the fidelity of the student’s learning data
- How writing more specific baseline requirements as part of the goals make a huge difference
- Despite having access to a bank of IEP goals, it’s crucial for your child’s goals to be individualized to him/her
- What should you do if a progress report states that a benchmark is met, however it’s not clear as to what was met
- The terms of measurement to determine if IEP goals have been met and progress made
- When presented with reports from teachers, parents can and should ask for stronger evidence
- How to handle a report if it states that a goal is “not met as written?”
Thank you for listening!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.
Vickie: Each week, we’re going to explore new topics which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie: Welcome back to the Inclusive Education Project Podcast that you’ve tuned into, and we got a lot of great feedback when we had dropped that we wanted to talk about IEP goals, so we’re just going to get right into it. We have a lot to say about them.
Amanda: Yeah. You may be having one of your last IEPs of the school year or you’re trying to figure out a way to make sure that next school year goes smoother, so we’ll break it down from the creation of goals to looking at goals from the perspective of the parent and the school, how to track them, and then looking at progress.
We’ll start out by talking about where goals come from. One of the first things an IEP team should do at an annual IEP meeting is talk about the present levels of performance or the PLPs, which essentially are where is the child doing at this moment in time in each area of need, so from communication to academic, vocational, pre-academic if they’re in preschool or TK, social skills, and behavior and whatnot.
Each area should be reported on, basically their strengths and their weaknesses, where are they performing, and then in that area, was it a deficit. For example, in academics, they may say the student is able to solve single digit by single digit multiplication problems, single digit division problems, still having trouble with some math facts. Deficits, areas of need might be the double digits or maybe the curriculum has moved onto fractions, and so then they’ll list the areas of deficit. Those areas of deficit that are listed in the present levels should become goals.
Vickie: Right. One of the things that parents oftentimes overlook are the present levels. They just want to get into what the new goals will be, but with IEPs, it’s all about the fidelity of data. You want to be sure, and we’ll get into it a little bit more, but when she says that those deficits should be part of the goal, the baseline for which the goal is based off of should also have that information. It shouldn’t necessarily just be in the present levels.
You want to be sure that, okay, this was our starting point and it was based on the assessments for the year. It’s based on classwork. This is how we’re able to measure where this child is now so that in a year from now when we’re working on this deficit, we’re actually working on it. We’re not just going to waste a year and then come back and say, “Oh, he’s just not getting it. We still need to work on it.”
You can use the baseline as a jumping off point, and if it’s missing, you ask, “Why is this not in here?” Because oftentimes, those baselines, they don’t have anything, and it’s just like, how are you creating this goal when this has nothing to do with the baseline?
Amanda: Right, or the baseline is talking about that the student is able to recite the alphabet, all letters of the alphabet, but the goal is writing them. Well, that baseline makes no sense to that goal. Yeah, it’s about the alphabet, but how am I going to measure going from reciting the letters to writing the letters, because with writing, we have to form the letters properly, we have to use our fine motor skills. There are a lot more components involved, so we need to be looking at if the goal is to write out, correctly form each letter of the alphabet at 80% accuracy, which as we talked about before is typically mastery, then the baseline must say at what percent accuracy the student can write and correctly form each letter now. It may be 0%.
Vickie: If it’s zero, that’s fine. Let’s put that, because oftentimes, you’ll get teachers saying, “Oh, well, at the beginning of the year, they could do it.” If he made progress on his benchmark for the first benchmark and the second benchmark, we get to the third one and then all of a sudden they don’t pass their goal, it’s just like, we were almost there. What happened? There’s not that much difference, and that’s something we’ll get into, but those benchmarks are important too. Don’t just sit there and just let it wash over you.
Of course, if you want to take it and look over it and then have another IEP meeting because it’s overwhelming, you’re going sometimes over assessments and then you’re getting into goals, but goals drive services and services drive placement. When we have parents say, “Yeah, I agree to the goals but I don’t agree to the services or the placement,” oftentimes we’ll get districts who argue, “Well, you’re okay with the goals, and so this is how the goals will be met with these specific services.”
Amanda: A lot of time, the problems come from not knowing that maybe there’s other areas of need that need to be created with goals or that the goals are derived from not accurate baselines. A couple issues that I often see, one is that you look to the present levels, and I’ve even seen IEPs before where there is 16 areas of deficit listed in the present levels in all these areas, but there’s five goals.
What happens a lot of times is when IEP teams are doing their annual, they’re looking at the previous goals, which may or may not have been appropriate, and let’s say the previous goal only had one math goal, and that math goal was relating to single digit multiplication. The kid met the goal, right? A lot of times, these teachers take that and they say, “Well, what’s the next step in multiplication?” Double digit. They automatically make the goal as the next step. They don’t always check to see if the student can even do it or not and they also don’t go back to the present levels to make sure, maybe there was a second area of deficit for math that needs to be added.
How many times have we seen IEPs where the same goals are written year after year because the kid hasn’t met it, but we’re not looking at the present levels to see, well, maybe they’re not meeting it, but maybe the reason they keep not meeting that goal year after year is either one, the intervention that’s being used to try to have the kid meet the goal, or two, there’s a foundational skill that needs to come first that’s not being added as a goal, so of course we’re never going to meet that other goal.
Vickie: Right, and sometimes you’ll have baselines that a child memorizes 45 site words and the goal is for 50 site words, but they’re going into second grade and you’re supposed to know just randomly you’re supposed to know 100 site words, so the parent oftentimes will be like, “Well, we’re only going to 50 and the baseline’s 45. Aren’t we going to get there super quick?”
I think that we’re trying to follow an outline here, but we’re skipping around, but what I was going to say is it all goes back to the fidelity of data. We say that because you’re a scientist and you’re collecting data, and oftentimes parents want to see year to year growth and you have to really truly understand your child’s learning differences because if your child did not have a disability, then yes, one could argue that you go from grade to grade to grade and you are able to … That completely threw me off.
Amanda: Sorry, guys, for this. We have these tablets that we use to make notes and I hit the side of the tablet and all of a sudden a ruler came up [crosstalk 00:08:06] and oh my gosh, I can move it.
Vickie: Just see if you can throw it out. Nope.
Amanda: I don’t know how and why I got that. Sorry.
Vickie: That’s so random.
Amanda: You also need to know, the fidelity of the data is also so important because for teachers’ perspective as well, of there should not be a question about whether or not the student met the goal, and how often is the biggest challenge between parent and teacher is because parent teacher do not agree that a goal has or hasn’t been met.
Vickie: Right, and that’s why I say you want to truly be able to understand your child’s learning differences because teaching strategies are going to be different, and if a parent wants a child to learn five words but it’s something where the goal actually has to work on breaking down the word, I get this all the time with the dyslexia kiddos that I have where fluency, it’s all about fluency. It’s all about the decoding and it’s like you can’t do this before this and parents want to work on everything all at once, but you’ve got to crawl before you walk and you’ve got to walk before you run.
I think that understanding the present levels, understanding your child’s learning differences, really getting into those baselines that we were just talking about and being able to have a conversation with the team so that everybody’s on the same page of how is this actually going to be met.
Amanda: Right, and that’s how we can come up with good goals, and a lot of times I get from teams, I will be really nitpicky on making sure the baseline is very accurate, and I have a lot of teams that get really upset that I’m challenging them on the baselines and they go, “Well, it doesn’t matter because I thought we had the benchmarks. We’re going to be tracking it all year long.”
Well, I have two problems with it. One, you don’t track it all year long, because I’ve had many times where I asked for data and I get five days, five days before the IEP is held, nothing else, so that’s problem number one. I don’t always see it happening all year round. The second problem is that if we do not have an accurate baseline, we don’t know for sure that the goal is actually appropriate.
I’m going to give you a prime example. I was in an IEP a couple weeks ago where I was appalled at the way these goals were written. We were talking about reducing inappropriate behaviors in a classroom, and the baseline read something generic about the frequency to which the child was having behaviors as in general, and the goal was talking about the kid having reduced behaviors in a specific area.
Vickie: Oh, okay.
Amanda: For instance, there was non-compliance.
Vickie: How old was the kid?
Amanda: Middle school.
Vickie: Okay, middle school. Different expectations for middle school, but okay.
Amanda: Right. There was non-compliant behavior. there was aggressive behavior and there was off task behavior. Data was collected on all three, and we were given a behavioral report that reported on how many instances of the behavior total he had. We didn’t have a breakdown. We also didn’t have a breakdown of what times of day or what activities these behaviors were occurring.
Amanda: When the team went to go and create a goal to reduce the amount of behaviors that happened during transitions using the baseline of the overall amount of behaviors that happened throughout a day-
Vickie: Oh, throughout a day, right.
Amanda: Then, I said, “Well, go back in that data. Tell me how many times there was non-compliance during a transition.”
Amanda: It turned out the kid had already met the goal because transitions wasn’t a problem as much as some other behavior, but here’s another really good example. We’re talking about site words. We had gone through the previous goals already and most people did not have them in front of them still, but I did. The previous goal, the student had met the site word goal.
They went, and in the baseline, they had done some baseline and I asked the teacher where they got the baseline. It ended up being that she had just tested him on one day or something along those lines. It said something like he knew a certain amount of site words and they listed them, and I was counting on the baseline, and it ended up being like 40. Those were the only site words he knows.
Vickie: [crosstalk 00:12:20]
Amanda: Right. The goal was for him to hit 70 site words in a year. Well, for one, a kid that’s in middle school from 40 to 70 in a year, that’s not that high of an expectation. I started the conversation with, “Well, do we need to be looking at a more challenging goal?” We looked at the baseline, but then I went and looked at the progress on the prior goal. The prior goal had said, “Student will learn 20 site words a month,” and he met that goal.
Vickie: Oh, and that’s how he got to 70?
Amanda: No. That number 70 was the proposed goal. We have in a year, we have nine months in a year, he learned 20 words a month for nine months. 180 words he knew, but the baseline on the proposed goal said 40 and the goal was 70. He already met that goal. I said-
Vickie: When you tested him on that one isolated time, he didn’t.
Amanda: Well, once we started having that conversation, everyone was like, “Oh.” This is what I’m talking about. If you’re looking at the goal itself and you’re looking at the baseline on the goal and you’re not sure whether or not that goal is appropriate, we really need to look at an accurate baseline because in this instance, the baseline was not accurate whatsoever.
Vickie: Right, and my mind goes to, well, if he actually truly really passed that goal from the previous year, then when you tested him, it shouldn’t be … That’s another thing-
Amanda: Well, it turned out that that data they tested him, they stopped at 40.
Vickie: Oh, yeah.
Amanda: We don’t actually know.
Vickie: Right, and so then that’s why you’re questioning the baseline, because oftentimes what you’ll see is that there will be a bank of goals that the teachers use. Listen, we’re talking from our own experience in terms of getting ideas for different goals, seeing how they’re used in different districts, and then maybe trying to do some crossover in a new district. It’s experience for us.
Of course, there are plenty of books out there. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use IEP banks of goals as a starting point, but you have to individualize it for the child. Bobby and Aaron shouldn’t have the same goal. It should be individualized, but oftentimes they have this generic information, and where I was going with your example is it’ll say, “Four out of five opportunities.” Okay, what’s an opportunity? Clearly for that baseline, one opportunity was the one day that they went to 40 only and it was during lunch or something, right?
Amanda: Right. Well, the craziest thing is that they had just looked at the prior goals that supposedly this teacher was reporting on, but because they didn’t look to that and they didn’t look at an accurate baseline, and that’s the frustrating part is that once we got to that, then the team was talking about … Well, because it all started from the fact that I didn’t think 70 words was challenging enough. I think the team first started out the conversation with being, “That’s a lot. That’s a big jump,” dah dah dah dah dah, and I was like, “Well, we need to have challenging goals for starters. I think that in a year, that jump is very minimal.”
Vickie: That’s going to be different for each kid. Obviously Amanda’s probably been working with this family for a couple of months, so to say that’s challenging, that might be plenty challenging for another type of kiddo.
Vickie: It’s hard for us to talk in specifics. We can only talk about our experiences and what that is meant to do for you is to give you a nice kind of starting point to just question, question the known, question the unknown. That’s what the goal of today’s pod really was going to be about because it’s a big undertaking to try and talk about … You could Google it. You can go on Pinterest.
Amanda: These are things you need to be thinking about.
Vickie: These are things that you need to be thinking about because I’ve Googled some types of goals and used it as a starting point, and then the program specialist will be like, “Oh, you know what, yeah, and if we tweak it this way, this is how we can use this service. We’re jumping ahead a little, but we’re going to be offering this intensive reading program and this is how this,” so it’s just to make the IEP meeting more of a team meeting, not just you going and getting all this information thrown at you and then you just signing. I can’t tell you how many times parents have just been like, “Well, I just signed it because they’re supposed to know what’s best for my child.”
Amanda: Right, or everything sounded okay. It’s like with this one particular instance that I’m telling you about, had I not been nitpicky, this team probably would’ve thought this sounds okay.
Amanda: That’s a problem. However often you can get these IEP progress report and proposed goals ahead of time and you can look at it, and you don’t have to be an expert to see these problems. If you sit there and you just use your common sense, like, does this make sense, oftentimes you’re going to see the same problems that we’re going to see, and looking at, “Well, does the baseline even match? How am I going to track it?”
If the baseline says no percentages and the goal has a percentage, how are you going to track how much progress has been done, because in order to figure out the fidelity, we need to know how much growth has happened. Also, that goes to is the goal appropriate, because if we’re saying that we want 80% mastery but a kid is at 0%, that may be a big jump.
Vickie: That’s a big jump, right, and depending on the services, which you can push into the services, you can push into trying to make those grand strides if a baseline were to [crosstalk 00:18:03].
Amanda: Right, and it depends on how challenging the skill that we’re working on is, because sometimes a 0 to 80% jump on a skill that they’re just learning is okay, but if maybe the baseline is 60% and the goal is 80, that’s not challenging for a year, unless it’s something that is extremely difficult for that child.
Vickie: That’s why it’s important to look at the benchmarks and to be sure that when they’re saying four out of five opportunities, sometimes you define what the opportunity is and then the benchmark is two out of five, and when you get those progress, you’re supposed to get the progress on those benchmarks, if six months have gone by and the child is nowhere near even completing the benchmark, then you have an IEP meeting and you say, “We need to reassess the services that are being provided for this goal,” or, “We need to reassess this goal.” What you don’t want to happen is an entire year to go by and then all of a sudden, one of two things is going to happen. All of a sudden, the kid passes the goal and you’re like, “I don’t believe this.”
Amanda: Yeah, there’s no way, yeah.
Vickie: Or two, he doesn’t pass the goal, and we’ve just lost an entire year on a goal that if we would’ve just given him a bit more of the services or given her some more support, we could’ve done it.
Amanda: Right, or maybe the student is meeting all of the benchmarks but in reality, they met the goal at the first benchmark. Had we checked in sooner, we would know that wasn’t a challenging enough goal. We need to redo it sooner. Look, I have a lot of teams that when parents are thinking, “This is not a challenging enough goal,” the teams will say, “Well, we can always meet and readdress it and we’ll let you know if the goal has been met and we’ll do a new goal.” Any parents listening, you’ve probably heard that.
Now, my problem with that is more often than not, no one takes initiative to make that happen. I’ve had many times where it says benchmark met, but it doesn’t specify what has been met, because maybe the goal is for 80% and the first benchmark is for 40, second benchmark for 60. At the first benchmark time, the benchmark notes that the parents get on the progress report, if they get a progress report because many times they don’t, will say benchmark met, but doesn’t say did they meet it at 40%, did they meet it at 60%. Sometimes it’ll say exceeded, but most of the time, it won’t.
That’s where it’s up to the parent to request that IEP, because unfortunately, these teams are not going to inherently … The only times that I’ve seen a lot of schools come in and request an IEP to review goals way before the annual is if there’s a goal that the kid is completely defiant and they can’t even start working on the goal, or we are having behaviors and there’s something that needs to be added in with [crosstalk 00:20:43].
Vickie: They’re doing that to cover their butt, right? That’s why they’re having the IEP because in a year, this kid is not going to make any progress and they don’t want you to come back at them, so they’re trying to cover themselves, so you’ve got to cover yourself. If you’re not seeing the progress that you want to be had, you have to hold the districts accountable and it’s perfectly within your right to ask for an IEP if you get that progress report on goals.
I’m not talking about grades. I’m talking about you’re supposed to be getting a progress report on the goals after each benchmark, because if you’re not seeing the progress, or even if you are and you’re just like, “Hey, I see that I’m making really great progress. You weren’t really specific if it was 40% or 60%. I’d like to talk about it,” and then you can change the goals, because it should be fluid. It’s a living document and you want to be able to address it so that in case there’s something that needs to be done to help the child, it can be done.
Amanda: Right. Another thing that’s important to consider when we’re choosing goal areas is oftentimes I see goals that are created based on the curriculum of the classroom. You’ve got a child in a special day class and the classroom as a whole is working on a specific content area. Let’s just give the example of the class is learning the parts of the body and the functions of the parts of the body. It’s a fourth grade class, let’s just say. A normal fourth grade curriculum may not be addressing the parts of the body, but that’s something that that particular teacher has decided this is something that they want to cover.
Amanda: Well, if the goal is created to address the child not understanding the functions of the parts of the body, that is a goal that’s based on the curriculum and not necessarily a deficit of the student because we’re looking ahead at what the classroom as a whole is doing instead of the individual need of the kid.
Now, if they’re not understanding the parts of the body and the functions, more often than not that’s a vocabulary deficit. It should be specific to a vocabulary goal. Now, if they want to include content words that are within the content of what they’re doing in class, that’s fine, but it really should be a vocabulary goal, not a parts of the body goal because that is not necessarily an individualized goal.
Going into, we’ve talked a lot about making sure that we’re measuring these goals, right? What does it mean for a goal to be measurable? Well, as Vickie said, we need to be having fidelity of data to make sure that goals have been met so that way we can show progress, we can prove the progress and we can track what’s going on with the student. It needs to have some terms of measurement. Oftentimes, you’re going to see what we had just talked about, two out of four opportunities, 80% accuracy. Those things are pretty common.
There’s oftentimes where goals will be created that doesn’t have any term of measurement at all. It’ll just say, “Demonstrate knowledge of X, Y, and Z.” Well, how do we know that they’re able, well, first of all, is the child even able to demonstrate? How are we demonstrating? That’s important. Are they verbally telling it? Are they pointing to something? Are they using their communication device? Are they writing it out? Are they saying it? Are they writing a paragraph about it or are they pointing to a word? Are they matching? Demonstrating can mean all of those different things, so that’s a specificity that’s important. In looking at how do we know that they’re at 20% now or that they’re not at mastery now and that they’re going to be at mastery, right? We need to know.
A lot of times I’ll see something like they’ll do it four out of five times within one week. I have a big problem with that statement because what happens then is a week before the annual IEP, that teacher goes and tests the kid, but we haven’t been testing all year round. It’s very possible that they could’ve halfway through the year already met it, but they weren’t tracking it, or they hadn’t been meeting it and then all of a sudden they met it within just one week, so maybe it wasn’t an appropriate goal to begin with because they already actually were there.
That’s really important for it to be more of a long-standing measurement. It shouldn’t just be a one week span. I like the 80% of opportunities, and then define what the opportunity means, because then we know that there’s that consistent progress. They didn’t just do it an isolated incident.
Vickie: But it falls back on those benchmarks too because the benchmarks will still have it, three out of five opportunities, and so as a parent, it shouldn’t be your job but we’re telling you it is, to really be able to hold them accountable because if you don’t understand what an opportunity is and you can’t try that on your own with the child and also something with the measurability of it, it’ll say, “According to teacher notes or teacher data.”
Vickie: Or teacher observation.
Amanda: Or work samples.
Vickie: Or work samples. You really want to be sure, because I can’t tell you how many times parents go into IEP meetings and they’re like, “There’s no way he knows how to write his name,” and then the teacher will pop out the work sample from maybe that month or that week or two weeks ago and it’s the child writing their name and the parent doesn’t want to believe it. It’s just like you have to take it for what it is if you’ve waited this long to figure it out.
Amanda: Well, what’s important about that is that if you say on the goal that it should be measured by work samples, we need to be very specific. Is the expectation that they do it independently or with support? Is the expectation that they do it in the classroom or they do it in a one on one setting, because I’ve had situations where, let’s talk about penmanship, right? Spacing of letters. If the goal is for the proper spacing, but the goal was written to be executed in the classroom and the expectation was that in all class assignments, the student writes illegibly, the parent says, “I don’t think that the kid is legible. I really think that they’re still doing sloppy. I have my own samples,” the team may or the teacher might pull out a sample and I go, “When was this done?” More often than not, that was done on a one on one setting because that was testing for the goal.
I go, “Well, let me see actual work samples from the classroom.” If the parent didn’t think to ask those questions, they would’ve had to rely on it and say, “Well, I guess.” I’m not saying to challenge everything that they’re being given, but just because they save you one work sample of something doesn’t mean, because that could’ve been with a lot of support. It could’ve been with-
Vickie: Where I was going with it is that oftentimes the parent’s like, “That’s because the aid was in the classroom and told him the answer or did this,” and it’s like, “I believe you, but I need to have the evidence to be able to prove that.” That’s where Amanda’s coming in and saying that you have to be very specific. Is it independent? When they with one prompt, okay, the teacher’s giving that one prompt. Is it visual? Is it verbal? Is it a tactile type of prompt?
These are the types of things that if they’re getting these IEP goals from word banks and it’s just the same thing for them but a different kid, they’re going to try to make their job as easy as possible, and that’s fine. We want the teachers to be able to be giving their all. However, if they need that extra support, when you’re tearing apart these goals or just questioning them, that’s how you’re able to get services that are different, because if you just agree with everything the goals is, then they’re like, “Okay, great. They agree with everything, so based on those goals, these are the services that we’re going to provide which we know will be able to accomplish these goals in.” They’re not going to give you any more and they’re not going to give you any less. They’re just going to give you the bare minimum.
Amanda: I’ve definitely seen it before where maybe a speech therapist will say, “Based on the amount of time I have with the student, I think three goals is appropriate,” because maybe they have 30 minutes. Well, that should not be the determination because goals drive services, not the other way around. If there’s more than three areas of need, there should be more than three goals, and if they can’t do four goals in 30 minutes, then they need to be doing maybe an hour.
That’s something really to think about, and in terms of just trying to figure out, we talked about last time how the goals need to be understood by anybody that reads them, anyone that works on them. That’s where when we talk about specifics, if there’s a word that can have multiple meanings, if it’s vague, if it’s not clear, you could do in parenthesis IE XYZ. There’s lots of things that you can do in goals to have that in there.
I know that we could talk about this all day, but I had a few more things that I wanted to just touch on. One is that oftentimes, I have parents that ask for goals based on the grade that they’re in. They’re in first grade and they find out that a certain skill is a first grade standard and the child is not able to do it, so then I ask for a goal and the staff goes, “Well, we’re working on that in class.” The parents will get upset about that. Well, the reality is if something is a grade level standard in that grade and the school year is not over, it’s not an area of deficit because all kids are expected to know that by the end of the year, not in the middle of the year. We have to really be clear on what is a deficit and what is not. Now, if the end of the school year happens and they still haven’t met that standard, then for the second grade year, is it an area of need? Absolutely.
Vickie: Again, that goes back to understanding what your child’s learning differences are and what their unique needs are. Let’s give them a chance. Let’s make sure that with the appropriate accommodations and services, if what it is that the district is offering is appropriate, and this isn’t necessarily a deficit that they in the past have had with reading for instance, it’s coming to circle time or something like that regarding behavior, let’s see where they’re at. Don’t wait half a year, but it’s hard when you have an IEP meeting in January of second grade. She’s already gone through the first semester, and then that IEP is going to be for the rest of first grade for her.
Amanda: And we’re contemplating second grade.
Vickie: And second grade. It is hard, but just being able to understand and be on top of it will help you guys out.
Amanda: Just to wrap it up with regards to let’s say you got the goals, the goals are appropriate, we made sure that they were measurable. We made sure that they were measurable. We made sure that how we were tracking them, so we’re not just saying observation, because observation is subjective. We want to make sure that there’s definitive data, so it should be data collection. It should be work samples. It should be something that you as a parent, if you say, “I don’t believe the goal has been met,” you can then go to the staff and say, “I’d like to see that data. I’d like to see those work samples.”
If they provide you with that and it doesn’t prove progress, then the goal hasn’t actually been met. That’s something where there’s the checks and balances. If you make sure that the goal is measurable and make sure that there is a method to make it measurable, work samples, data collection, then there should be no question as to whether or not it’s met.
The other thing to consider is that a lot of times someone will report on progress and say, “It wasn’t met as written,” or, “It was met as written.” What that tells me is that goal wasn’t written in an appropriate way in the first place, because maybe the goal was written for independence. The child still needs one prompt. They’ve mastered a skill, and maybe in this instance, the one prompt is okay. It’s age appropriate.
Vickie: Because all kids get one prompt.
Amanda: Because all kids get one prompt, but the goal was written for independence, so they didn’t meet the goal. Well, they’ve really mastered the skill, so that’s something to consider, too.
Vickie: A bit of give and take.
Amanda: Right. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the goals are appropriate, because like Vickie said, goals drive services, services drive placement, and it determines whether or not the student is making good progress or not. Oftentimes, we have kids that will meet goals year after year but the parent still doesn’t think that progress is really being made. Well, that’s where you need more challenging goals. Maybe they’re not meeting any goals. Are the goals too challenging or are the services?
Vickie: Right, not appropriate, or is the placement not appropriate.
Amanda: Right, and oftentimes when we report on that progress, we’ve tracked it, we’ve got an appropriate goal, we see whether or not the goal has been met, if the goal has not been met by law the school should do one of two things. They have one of two options. Either change the goal or change the services, because either the goal wasn’t appropriate and they need to modify the goal or they need to alter the services because the services weren’t enough to address that goal. If they keep the services the same and they keep the goal the same, not appropriate.
Vickie: It’s not appropriate. You’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is summer. This is such a great podcast episode.” It’s fine. Just take a look at your goals, and when school starts back up, request an IEP meeting. They have 30 days to give you and schedule that IEP meeting, and just have a conversation. Let them know that, “Okay, I’m going to try to start this off on the right foot,” and you’re going to get some movement. It’s not going to be this thing where they’re just like all of a sudden, “No, you agreed to this and we’re not going to have to do anything.” No, you’re just checking in with the new team. You’re checking in with the new teacher. You’re just making sure everybody is crossing their Ts and dotting their Is.
Amanda: Baselines might be different when the school year starts. Especially with their younger kiddos, like preschool, first, and second grade, they’re growing so much in a couple of months, especially if you put together some kind of your own program over the summer, they could’ve made great gains and maybe we need to adjust the baselines.
Vickie: Right. It’s a good reason to have a check in at the beginning of the year. Don’t fret. You still have time. Yeah, that was a wordy filled episode, but we got a lot of great feedback about wanting a pod on IEP goals, so hopefully that satisfied some things. Definitely take a look at those goals and leave us a comment about them if you enjoyed this episode, and we will be in your ears next week. Talk to you later.