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How to Effectively Write Standards-Based IEP Goal Objectives for Special Education Students

Updated: Jun 1, 2022


How does your student measure up?

The information in this article will help you objectively assess their current performance levels and write a goal for them with perfectly aligned objectives that steadily progress toward grade-level standards.


Step-by-step instructions for how to review your students’ present performance levels and write a scaffolded IEP goal with perfectly-aligned objectives that steadily progress your student to grade-level standards

This is not going to be your average blog article about how to write a SMART goal. We all went to school and probably learned from the same books about how to make a goal specific, measurable, attainable, blah blah blah.


So, let's dive in and start thinking about the why rather than the how. In some ways, an IEP goal is a teacher's pledge to each student and their families about where we are going to take their education in the coming year. We write them in anticipation of reaching the highest heights.


To reach those heights, we need to build an appropriate learning ladder for the student to climb.


Learning Ladders

A learning ladder consists of rungs just as if climbing a ladder. With each step up a new skill to accomplish getting closer and closer to the top or primary IEP goal. Every new skill builds upon the previous skill to be solidified and retained for future growth.

  • The first rung indicates what the student can currently do and do well.

  • The next rung is the first of many baby steps that we will teach over a year, bringing the student closer to grade-level expectations.

  • Each sequential rung climbed adds to the development of knowledge gained through natural learning progression.

Now, on to determining what those scaffolds are going to look like in an IEP goal and the nuts and bolts of how to teach it.

Determining the Scaffolds

Let’s use a sample student named Michael Washington.


Michael's latest general education assessments indicate that he struggles with addition and subtraction, specifically multi-digit problems. His teacher reports he has been struggling for a while but is unsure where the learning got disconnected. His latest evaluation is two years old and he’s not due for a review for another 12 months.