Are your IEP Goals “SMART” Goals?

How to Make Your IEP Goals SMARTSPECIFIC


IEP goals must be specific. Simply stating generalities such as “do better”, “try harder”, “understand”, “have a good attitude” or “appreciate” just won’t cut it. Rather, the goal needs to specifically state what the goal is looking to achieve. For example, “read 20 more words”, “80% accuracy”, “90% accuracy in 10 minutes”, “diagnose a malfunctioning engine” all are specific enough to be measured.


Measurable means you can count or observe it. It is necessary in order to know how much progress has been made since last measured. Make sure there is consistency in collecting data on the same goal and those measurement standards are the same. Even shifts in the person taking the data, time of day, and environment can all have an impact on the data collected.

Additionally, if the goal is to demonstrate knowledge or performance, ask how knowledge or performance is to be demonstrated. For example:

  • How are the questions being asked (verbally or written)?
  • How is the data being charted?
  • How are the answers provided?
  • At what time and environment is data being collected?

Behavior can even be measurable by defining the factors surrounding the behaviors and focusing on behavior that you can count or observe. Think about precipitating events (“when asked to work independently”) and environmental factors (“on the playground”, “after lunch”) to help make behavioral goals measurable. Circumstantial evidence can be used to decide if behaviors have improved, i.e. “smiles often,” “stopped yelling at the teacher,” or “offers to help others”.


Based on present levels of performance and function, ask yourself if the goal is an achievable goal? IEP’s are updated at least annually so there is no need for lofty goals. Plus if it is not an achievable goal, it could end up discouraging both the teacher and your child off from working toward it. Remember that progress does not equal achievement.


Ask if this is a goal that can realistically be achieved. Ask yourself what you expect your child to know (knowledge) and what you expect your child to be able to do (performance and function). This is an extremely individualized plan so be sure the goals are individualized to expectations for your child. The goal should address your child’s unique needs that result from his or her specific disability and be necessary to prepare your child for further education, employment, and independent living.


Goals need to be time-sensitive and monitored at regular intervals. Be sure to include in the goal when the data will be collected and how often (i.e. “weekly”, “end of marking period”). Data collected at regular intervals will provide a clear picture regarding the progress on the goal and whether the goal needs to be adjusted or even temporarily set aside.

In order for time-sensitive goals to be accurately quantified, there must be a clear understanding of the starting point. It is therefore imperative the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance are clear and specific. Finally, be sure the goal states a date for the goal to be achieved by. For example: “by June 1” [one year from when making the goal] and “by the end of the second quarter”.