By Anna Marie Reiners, M.Ed, Ed.S, BCBA
The practice of aligning IEP goals for students with disabilities with grade-level state standards is considered a best practice in special education. The process of reviewing the grade-level standards and aligning goals that would allow progress towards these standards, supports the practice of creating high expectations for students. This practice stems from the federal requirement of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004), which outlines that students with disabilities should be allowed to access general education curriculum. The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Enders F. v. Douglas County School District also indicates that schools must provide “merely more than de minimis” education for students with disabilities. This ruling also emphasized the emphasis for schools to provide an education for the students that is “appropriately ambitious” in terms of progress and access to the general education curriculum. This ruling further clarifies the responsibility of districts to support students accessing the general education curriculum. This would start with accessing the grade-level standards. Below we will discuss how to write IEP goals based on grade-level state standards.
Steps to Create a State Standards-Based IEP
Step 1: Look at the grade-level content standards for the student’s current or upcoming grade level and consider what the student should know and demonstrate. This step is important in making sure the teacher is familiar with the content that needs to be covered and ensuring adequate progress is made each year in accessing the general education curriculum.
Step 2: Gather student data or complete assessments to determine where the student is at in comparison to these standards and what knowledge they need to be able to access these standards. The teacher may outline several grade level standards that are important for the student to make adequate progress in the upcoming school year as well.
Step 3: Develop a measurable annual goal that is aligned with grade-level academic content standards. The goal should look at what the student can achieve in the given year, as well as consider what accommodations and evidence-based instructional strategies that the teacher should utilize to support the student accessing this goal. Determining how the goal can be measured will help determine if the student is making adequate progress.
There are resources and online tools that help support teachers in the process of writing IEP goals that take into consideration the grade-level standard. Rethink Ed provides wonderful support to educators on how to access grade-level standards that align with evidence-based strategies, which would support the student in accessing the standard.
First, the teacher can browse the Lesson Library and view which Lessons are aligned with that student’s grade level based on the acronym for the state-standard that the student currently resides in. For the purpose of this example, the student is in a state that utilizes the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Next, the teacher can explore the standards by clicking on the details of this lesson and viewing the standard(s) that align with that lesson.
The teacher can then view the Lesson Plan that has an evidence-based strategy for teaching the specific skill, as well as walk through guidelines for assisting the teacher in writing the IEP goals.