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Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: The Basics

Learn about goals and objectives (or benchmarks), which are the core of your child's IEP.

By GreatSchools Staff

Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings give you and the school a chance to work together to design an IEP for your child with learning disabilities who's been determined eligible for special education. The goals for academic achievement and functional performance set for your child are the core of the IEP. As a parent, you play an important role in developing these goals.

What Are Goals?

Goals represent what you and the other IEP team members think your child will be able to accomplish in his area(s) of disability-academic, developmental, and functional-in a year's time. Annual goals must be written in measurable terms. Here is an example:

Sample IEP Long-Term Goal in Reading*

Given randomly selected passages at the third-grade level, J. R. will read aloud 115 words correct per minute, by the end of the year (or in 35 weeks), as measured by a valid curriculum-based measurement.

*From the National Center on Student Progress Monitoring at

To the degree practicable, both the specially designed instruction used to achieve the goals, and the evaluation tools used to measure your child's achievement, should be research based.

How Are Goals Developed?

The IEP team (which includes parents) develops academic and functional goals based on your child's present level of performance. Reports from you and the teachers, as well as evaluations and performance on state assessments, provide the basis for deciding areas to focus on for your child. In addition, your state's academic content standards for your child's grade level can serve as a reference point for setting goals for your child (see sidebar). If you prepare some ideas before the meeting, you'll feel more comfortable participating in the process.

Goals must relate directly to the areas of need identified in the present level of performance. They should be prioritized in order of greatest need and be stated in objective, measurable terms.

Your child needs to understand what his goals (and objectives or benchmarks, if any) are. As he gets older, he should be involved in developing them, as well. The more he is aware of what he's working on, the better his buy-in, and the greater his chances of achieving the goals.

How Many Goals Are Enough?

Often IEPs include too many goals. This can be confusing to you and the teachers and put unrealistic expectations on your child. To keep the number manageable, consider setting one goal for each "big" area of concern, for example, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, math calculation, or study skills.

Who Carries Out the Goals?

The type of goals the team writes determines who will carry them out — the special education teacher, general education teacher, or support person (for example, speech/language pathologist) responsible. Often, a team works together; for example, the special and general education teachers and the speech/language pathologist may work to help your child improve skills in reading comprehension.

Comments from readers

"I am working on the profile of a student, and the blank forms have been sent to me by a relative, but the scanned copies are bad and some information is missing or illegible. Could I have model forms A, B 1-2-3, C and D? I would really appreciate that. By the way, browsing the website has helped a lot. "
"I have a question (if you don't mind)... When a goal in put in the IEP and it states that a student will decode regualr multisyllabic words with 80% accuracy on 2 of 3 trials - does this seem like it would produce an accurate assessment? Shouldn't there either be more of a consistent evaluation method - like once a week? Also, shouldn't the students intial score betaken into considertation (instead of only counting the 2 highest of the 3)???? It seems like they are giving my son really easy goals and they make it a point to say how successful his accommodations are working out for him. What do you think? "