5 Steps to Effective IEP Goals: Parent’s Guide to IEP Goal Setting

Does your child have effective IEP goals? Here is a parents guide to iep goal setting.

When you have a child with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), goal setting is an essential part of the process. But what makes effective IEP goals? 

When it comes to your child’s education, you want to ensure they’re getting the most out of it and that their individual needs are being met. 

In this blog post, we’ll break down the five steps to creating an effective IEP goal.


What Are IEP Goals? 

IEP goals help to identify skills your child should learn and assess progress throughout the school year.

These goals can track academic areas, such as math and reading, and non-academic areas, such as behavior or self-advocacy.

IEP Goals also guide educators in determining the best type of instruction to lead to success in both classroom performance and beyond.


Step 1: What Are Your Child’s Present Levels?

Present levels are where your child is right now in a particular skill. Your child’s present levels should outline what goals your child needs to work on. 

When reading your child’s present level, take note of any area where your child needs support. Then consider if there is a goal or objective aligned with that skill. 

For example, if the “present level” explains that your child has not mastered reading “CVC” words, it would make sense that they have a goal in that area. 

On the flip side, if the present level states that your child can identify the “main idea,” it would generally not make sense to have a goal related to that skill. 

Your child does not need to be below grade level to have an IEP goal in a given area. 

For example, your child may be twice exceptional or gifted and have an educational disability. She may need a goal in an academic area that they are performing on grade level if their educational disability impacts their achievement in that subject.


Step 2: Make the IEP Goal Specific

When IEP goal setting, be as explicit and detailed as possible.

The goal should contain:

  • The specific task
  • Setting she will do it in
  • Any support she will need to complete the task

You want the goal to be specific enough for anyone working with your child to follow, whether it be a substitute teacher, therapist, or coach.


Step 3: Are the Goals Measurable? 

IDEA states that IEPs should have measurable annual goals. 

Therefore, when reading your child’s IEP goals, consider whether this can be demonstrated and tested. In addition, the goal should be clear regarding what and how the student should master the objective. 

At the IEP meeting, ask for any work samples and assessments showing how your child is performing on a given skill. 

The objectives within each goal should also be measurable and include work samples.  


Step 4: Are the IEP Goals Attainable? 

In addition to being measurable, an IEP goal should be realistically attainable within a year. At the same time, you do not want a goal that is too easy for your child. Instead, you want a goal that is “just right.” 

In considering whether a goal is appropriate, you will look at where she is performing currently and how much progress she has made in the past year. This information again should be included in the “present level.”  

The most foundational skills in a given area should be focused on when developing goals. Within the curriculum, there are many different skills.

Some of these skills are more important to your students learning foundation than other skills. Discuss with the IEP team why specific goals should be prioritized over others when choosing the goals. 

Goals, in general, should not repeat year after year. However, if a student has the same IEP goal the following year, the team should discuss why this is. 

If your child has not mastered the goal, then the team should discuss what else the student needs to master this skill. 

This could be anything from additional supplemental aids and services to an increase in services or a different service delivery model.  

You should also receive progress on each goal as a parent. If your child is not progressing in a given area, the team should meet to discuss the lack of academic progress. 

At the IEP meeting, discuss what else your child needs to make academic progress.


Step 5: Are the IEP Goals Relevant? 

IEP goals are different from learning standards, so they should be relevant to your child’s needs.

For example, a learning standard may dictate that all students in the third grade learn times tables.

That does not mean that every student that is in the third grade should have that as their IEP goal. Instead, they may have a specific goal on three-digit addition and subtraction.


Need More Help With Your Child’s IEP?

IEP goal setting is an integral part of the special education process. It’s essential to ensure these goals are based on your child’s present levels, specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant to their needs.

Having clear objectives that focus on foundational skills in a given area will help ensure progress toward their success.

If you have any questions or concerns about setting appropriate IEP goals for your child, it’s best to consult with the IEP team members, who can provide additional guidance and support throughout this process.

With proper planning and collaboration among all involved parties, your child can reach their maximum potential through meaningful educational experiences tailored specifically to them.

If you don’t feel your child is receiving the special education services she needs, you do have options. So let’s get on a call and discuss how we can help.

Also, check out Special Needs Tutoring and additional Special Education Resources to help keep them running down the path to success. 

What goals would you like to see on your child’s IEP? Let us know in the comments.  


More Resources to Check Out



Does your child have effective IEP goals? Here is a parents guide to iep goal setting.
Discover the five steps to creating effective IEP goals for your child with this Parent’s Guide to IEP goal setting.
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Whitney Small

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