Today I wanted to chat all things IEP GOALS with you!
How many goals do you normally write for an artic only IEP? Does that number change for students working on language? Or students who use AAC?
Today’s email is meant to (hopefully) challenge you to think about how you write IEP goals, specifically how many you’re writing, in order to decrease overwhelm and unnecessary work.
First, I want to give some background because I know everybody uses different vocabulary.
For most of my students, I write 2 goals. For my students who take alternate state tests (i.e., those who have the most significant needs), we are required to write objectives under the goals. I do not write objectives for any other students based on advice from my state. Our state tracks how many goals are met year to year. We are not allowed to mark a goal as “met” unless all objectives are met, therefore our state (and my district) encourages us to stay away from writing too many objectives under one goal. I hope that makes sense.
Now that we’ve got our vocabulary straight, let’s get into exactly how I write IEP goals. Below are the steps I follow each and every time:
1) Look back at the previous 3-year evaluation. I try to do really thorough 3-year evaluations so I have them to look back on. Note any areas of weakness from the evaluation, especially ones you’re still seeing.
2) Stop into the classroom and informally chat with teachers about difficulties they are seeing. I often do this when I do my push-in minutes. If teachers aren’t the most cooperative (let’s be honest, we all deal with that!), skip this step and simply observe in the classroom instead! 99% of the teachers I’ve worked with, however, are super open to chatting, especially when it’s brief and informal!
3) Do an informal language sample. Use this freebie if you don’t have a checklist you’re using already! Oftentimes I see SLPs write goals based on diagnostic characteristics of a language disorder (I’m looking at you ‘goals that are derived directly from the CELF-5’ ) and not necessarily skills that are impacting communication skills that our students need to interact with peers and be successful in the classroom. Doing a simple, quick language sample each year will help remind you of what functional skills distinguish our students from other, typical learners.
4) Pick 1-4 primary areas that appear to be affecting the student the most. These areas should be developmentally appropriate and specific.
5) Assess those skills. Trial a therapy activity that you might use for the skills. See how your students perform! Sometimes my students surprise me and can actually do the skill well in structured contexts. Consider keeping these skills on as a goal and targeting them directly in the classroom or using grade-level work. Toss out skills that your student doesn’t understand at all or skills that your student has a pretty good handle on.
6) Write a specific goal for the skills you have left. I aim to write a max of 3 IEP goals. Honestly, I rarely even write that many! I try to stick with 1 or 2 unless I’m seeing a student several times a week or in a 1:1 environment. Otherwise, I feel like I’m setting myself up for stress and failure when they are put into a group of 4 students all working on different goals! Yikes!
If you need a little goal inspiration, check out my goal bank!
I’ve been asked several times if I work on skills that aren’t directly what the goal is written for. YES! I think you often need to in order for your students to understand what they’re working on, why, and how to apply it to things that aren’t so structured or specific!
If I haven’t convinced you to write fewer IEP goals yet, imagine the scenario below:
Let’s say you have 4 students in a group. Each student has 4 language goals and they are all slightly different.
Honestly, this isn’t even the most challenging group you’ll have in your career… am I right??
So, you’re balancing 16 goals per school year for that specific group. Now, let’s assume you’re seeing them twice a week and that a school year is 40 weeks long.
That means you’ll see that group 80 times during a school year. We all know this is the real world and students are often sick, they go on field trips, and you know, you might be in a meeting once and a while. But… let’s just go with 80.
If you divide 80 (sessions per year) by 16 (goals per group), you get….. FIVE.
I personally think for many of the students we work with, expecting major progress on difficult skills that require our expertise in only (a max of) FIVE sessions a school year sessions is just setting yourself up for disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion.
And for me personally, providing direct teaching and support on 4 different goals during a 20-30 minute session with 4 students with differing needs sounds equally as challenging.
Writing fewer goals allows you to find the specific place where a breakdown is occurring (for me, it’s often with vocabulary, syntax, or morphology) and target it directly. No more silly worksheets just to keep everybody busy! Everybody in the group learns the skills together because let’s be honest… almost all of our students can benefit from learning more about these tricky topics!
Do you have a good system for writing goals? If not, think of a few ideas you’d like to try!
I hope that helped convince you to write fewer goals so that you can really teach skills to the depth our students need. Meaningful skills and strategies can take a lot of time to establish, practice, and generalize. Go a little easier on yourself!