Let’s talk about IEP goals. Specifically, let’s talk about IEP goal percentages. I am convinced that somewhere in the annals of IEP goal history, someone said:
- “80% is a good number for a goal.” Then, someone else said:
- “I agree! But, I want it to read 4 out of 5!” Finally, trying to please both of these individuals, someone said:
- “Why not both? Let it read 80% on 4 out of 5 attempts!” IEP teams at school systems across the nation went forth to make goals that followed this template without taking the time to realize that they were mathematically horrible for the student. That’s how it goes in my mind, anyway. In reality, it is probably a combination of limited time, conformity, and plain old human laziness.
Whatever the reason, can we please stop normalizing this method of creating IEP goals? First, the INDIVIDUAL in Individualized Education Plan is ignored when a templated approach is used to setting goals. Second, a goal written in this manner sets a very low bar for the student.
Let’s look at a few goals and analyze their success criteria.
64 Is The New Passing Bar?
I am over 80% sure that if your child has an IEP, you have likely seen a goal like this:
- “Given visual supports and provided explicit instruction using a multisensory approach, Student will listen to sounds in target words, and encode real/nonsense (CV, VC, CVC) words with 80% accuracy on 4 out of 5 documented opportunities by 02/17/2023.” There are a few things wrong with this goal, but let’s focus on the success measurement. What this goal is really saying is:
- Given visual supports and provided explicit instruction using a multisensory approach, Student will listen to sounds in target words, and encode real/nonsense (CV, VC, CVC) words with 80% accuracy on (4/5 = 80%) of documented opportunities.
- 80% of 80% = 64% ! Here’s a visual:
When people write goals like this on an IEP, I don’t believe they are really reading and understanding the success criteria that they are writing. If this goal was accepted, then the school system could show progress on the goal by succeeding at a rate of 64%!
The last time I was in school, this was a failing grade. Worse yet, this goal is referring (poorly) to a fundamental reading skill. Essential skills that lay the foundation for literacy and number sense should be mastered. Mastered means 100%. I can understand an 80% (not 64%) on a goal about giving contextual answers to who, what, when, where, and why questions on a passage of text, but not fundamental reading skills.
Should You Recognize Safety Hazards 64% of the Time?
Here is a more egregious example of poorly written goal success criteria.
- “When presented with a real-life scenario involving safety hazards, Student will recognize the danger in each and identify an appropriate action to take in response to it with 80% accuracy in 4 out of 5 documented opportunities.” Again, this goal is really saying:
- When presented with a real-life scenario involving safety hazards, Student will recognize the danger in each and identify an appropriate action to take in response to it with 80% accuracy in (4/5 = 80%) of documented opportunities.
- Are you really okay with your child crossing the street safely only 64% of the time?
Watch Out for Low Bars
I have seen school systems try to set the bar low for our students repeatedly. Sometimes they do this on purpose, and sometimes they aren’t paying attention. As a parent, you must pay attention and become an expert on writing your own IEP goals for your child.
Think about the context for the goal. How important is it to achieve mastery in the specific goal? Actually, make the IEP INDIVIDUALIZED. If you are not vigilant, the school may only write appropriate goals 80% of the time in 4 out of 5 IEP meetings. That seems to be a bar that they are okay with setting and I guarantee you that this is 100% bad for your child.