So, we know that developing the IEP (Individual Education Program) is one of the most important steps in the special ed process, but how do we develop an appropriate one? Many school districts and special ed teachers struggle with this step. Many parents get frustrated at this point in the process because of “the cookie cutter” IEP approach…the one size fits all IEP. Special education is supposed to be individualized instruction in order to meet the unique needs of the child, yet many parents find themselves signing off on the same IEP year after year.
The fine folks at Wrightslaw have written a great book, called “From Emotions to Advocacy”. It is an excellent resource, and I recommend that everyone involved with special education…either a parent or teacher or advocate, read this book and learn from it. One of the things they talk about, in chapter 12, is writing SMART IEPs. S=Specific, M=Measurable, A=Action words, R=realistic and relevant, and T=Time limited.
IEP goals and objectives need to be specific in nature and measurable. How are we going to measure progress if we don’t know specifically what we are going to work on and how we are going to assess it? Many IEP goals are very vague and open…..as a parent you need to avoid that. An IEP needs to include Action Words….that means it should reflect what the school and the child will actually be able to do…nice strong verbs that describe the desired outcome. Goals and objectives also need to be realistic…can the child realistically work toward that goal and reach it during the current school year. In order to be relevant, the goals need to connect to the real world and to the current curriculum in the classroom, and move the child from their current level of performance to the desired level of performance. IEPs also need to be time limited…objectives need to be completed within a time frame…the first quarter, semester, half a year, the full year.
With these types of goals, the school team can be held accountable for their actions and their implementation. A parent can ask for measurement or assessment of each goal…how far has the child come? If the child has met an objective, then that item can be taken off of the IEP and a new objective can be put in to replace it. Using this method, if a child is making progress, then IEPs should be different each year. If the child is not making progress toward the goals, then the IEP and programming needs to be reviewed. A child with the most significant disabilities should be able to show progress in some area, even if it is a small amount of progress. If assessment reveals no progress is being made at all, go back to the drawing board and rework the IEP. The programming is most likely inappropriate if there isn’t any progress being made.
Special education advocate and consultant with over 15 years of experience. I am passionate about assisting parents and children involved in the special education system, and assisting teams in developing appropriate plans and working together toward a common goal....improved student achievement!