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Special Education

Must IEP Goals be mastered at 80%?

Q: Is 80% the “correct” or “standard” percentage for IEP Goals? A: No. 80% is often used in IEP goals, but this is NOT a standard.

Q: Is 80% the “correct” or “standard” percentage for IEP Goals? Should 80% be the percentage for most goals?

A: No. 80% is often used in IEP goals, but this is NOT a standard and should only be used if, after careful consideration of both the specific goal and the individual child’s skill, it is determined to be reasonably ambitious and appropriate for that particular child. For example, there are some goals that must be set at 100%.

Would you set a goal that a child should look both ways before crossing the street at 80%? 90%? 95%? NO! Your child must master the goal of checking for traffic before entering the street at 100% before they can be considered to have mastered this skill! If they haven’t mastered it, would you move on to teaching the next skill of independently walking to school? NO! You’d keep working on looking both ways.

Many academic goals must be mastered at higher than 80% as well. For example, early reading decoding skills like need to be achieved at around 95-100% before they are considered “mastered.” Being able to read 80% of words that are consonant-vowel-consonant or “CVC,” (like “cat), is not good enough– imagine if you could only read 80% of one syllable words– you would be illiterate. Only mastering 80% of kindergarten sight words before moving on to first or second grade sight words is also, frankly, silly. For skills like this, even if it takes the child a long time to master, the skill should be reviewed until a much higher level of mastery than 80%.

Sometimes it takes outside support to convince an IEP team to change that 80% to something more individualized– if your team has told you no on issues like this, you are not alone. This is a common place where parents may hear one thing, but bringing in the right support person, like a special education consultant, literacy expert, or education attorney may be needed to get your child’s IEP to where it needs to be.

And that data is important– IEP goals must be written in a way that demands the collection of “measurable” data– that’s so that everyone– you included– can see the progress being made. Here’s a hint about progress reporting– if it doesn’t include numbers, it’s probably not good progress reporting. For example, saying “Jane is a great kid, she really has been trying hard this quarter” is NOT progress reporting. It’s nice, but it is not helpful to tracking special education progress.

I have seen middle school writing goals for putting a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence set at 80%. Again, it is student specific— it’s individualized, don’t forget. This may be appropriate for a small subset of students. But ask yourself—can we reasonably expect that this child could master capitalizing sentences 90 or 95% of the time with specialized instruction? If so, 95% should be how the goal is written. Hint: almost all middle school students with low-average, average or higher cognitive ability can master capitalizing words with 95% accuracy. In fact, most elementary school students can too!

If your child’s IEP goals are always set at 80% (which I bet is far more than 80% of you!), ask yourself why, and what would be appropriate for your individual child given their particular goals, abilities and needs.

THIS BLOG SHOULD BE USED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY READER AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU NEED LEGAL ADVICE FROM A SPECIAL EDUCATION ATTORNEY, PLEASE SCHEDULE A CALL.

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