One of the legal requirements of goals in an IEP is that they be measurable. In other words, people who were not at the meeting should be able to determine how much progress a student has made towards the goals. That means the school district must collect data. Further, the meaning of that data should be clear. For example, a data sheet that says a student interacted appropriately with peers is not very informative, because “appropriate” could mean so many different things. By contrast, a data sheet that says the student initiated three interactions with peers tells the reader what happened in a measurable way.
There are numerous benefits of measurable goals. First, it allows a parent to compare how the student is doing at school and at home. Second, it makes data (and hopefully services) less dependent on the particular teacher providing the services. Third, comparing data from measurable goals over time can help you discover whether current levels of services are enough to provide appropriate educational benefit. Knowing that your child is at 55% success when the goal is 80% success might be fine, depending on how much of the school year has passed. Or it might mean that it is time to talk with the school district about increasing the intensity of services. At an IEP meeting, there are two major implications from the requirement that goals be measurable:
Numerical Progress Reports
The school district is required to tell you about your child’s progress on IEP goals at least as frequently as typical children are given progress reports – generally, whenever a report card is sent home. Too often, the progress reports say only that the student is “making appropriate progress.” By itself, this is useless to figure out whether the special education plan is working well. You should insist that the IEP require the school district provide numerical progress. The school district is supposed to be collecting data. If the district will not send you copies, it should send you useful summaries.
One Fraction Rule
When an IEP goal is measured in terms of trials, that means that the school district expects your child to make mistakes some of the time. There is nothing inherently wrong with a goal that a student will succeed at a task in two out of three tries. Separately, there is nothing wrong with setting a percentage for when a skill is mastered, allowing the school district to change to working on another goal. But when those two parts of an IEP get combined, it can effectively reduce the goal to nothing. The criteria for mastery percentage is the fraction of the time that the skill must be demonstrated so that parents and teachers can justify thinking the child has the skill. But fractions in an IEP goal should be multiplied together. With a criteria for mastery of 50% and a goal of success at 2 out of 3 trials, the district is essentially saying that teachers can stop working on a skill once the student completed 1 trial, because 50% = 1/2, and one half of two is one. If that is not what the IEP team meant, then the IEP should be written so that it says what everyone agrees it means. That is why I have a strict rule that only one fraction or percentage is allowed in any particular IEP goal.
From 2004 to 2007, a teacher at the Hopewell Middle School in Fulton County physically abused children in the non-verbal special education classroom. For this violation of federal law, Fulton County Schools has already been ordered to provide compensatory services to at least one student from that classroom. Now, another case is going to trial, starting Tuesday, August 20, 2013. Come to the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings (230 Peachtree Street) to show support for the family. Additional information can be found in this news article.
I will be speaking at the SPECTRUM parent support group monthly meeting on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm.
The Social Thinking Scholarship 2013 will close to applicants on October 7, 2013.
Have your own event for children with special needs? Submit it here for inclusion in future events lists.