Writing Standards-Based IEP Goals

By Mary Murray Stowe, M.Ed.

Standards-Based Individualized Education Programs (SB IEPs) will be implemented within the 2011-2012 school year in Virginia.  Divisions have the option to adopt this format for all students identified with a disability or only students meeting the criteria for the Virginia Modified Achievement Standards Test (VMAST) in math in the spring of 2012 and reading in the spring of 2013.  Use of SB IEPs is viewed as a mechanism for moving students with disabilities forward to on-time graduation with a standard diploma.  Increased access to the general education curriculum as defined by the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL), as well as providing specialized instruction to address need areas are the focus of SB IEPs.  To consider all the student’s needs, functional and basic skills may be also targeted.

SB IEPs differ from traditional Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) mainly in the depth and breadth of information concerning the student’s grade-level content achievement contained within the Present Level of Academic and Functional Performance (PLoP) and the focus of the annual measurable goals.  Consideration of the assessment data, whether formal or informal, and information addressing the seven critical questions recommended for consideration within the SB IEP PLoP is necessary to accurately determine and prioritize the goals that will be included in the SB IEP.  Collaboration between general educators and special educators to determine strengths and weaknesses relative to the grade-level standards will provide further information regarding prioritizing target skills that need to be addressed with accommodations or with a goal for specialized instruction.  Knowledge of the standards and use of the Curriculum Frameworks and Vertical Articulations and the SB IEP worksheets provide the basis for strategic decision making in selecting appropriate measurable annual goals.


Figure 1. Components to examine in determining and prioritizing appropriate measurable annual goals.

Questions to consider in developing measurable annual goals: (p. 18, SB IEP Guidance Document):

  • What are the student’s needs as identified in the Present Level of Performance?
  • What skills does the student require in order to master the content of the curriculum?
  • What can the student reasonably be expected to accomplish in one school year?

An example of the process is outlined on page 19 of the SB IEP Guidance Document.

For a student who is being considered for the VMAST, a statement will appear in the PLoP indicating that he or she will need significant supports and simplifications to master the grade-level skills and content. The academic goals for this student will address need areas that hinder mastery of the prioritized grade level skill.  Assessment data information and additional components will be synthesized with the Essential Knowledge and Skills of the appropriate Curriculum Framework to determine the prioritization of the academic goals, as outlined in Figure 1.

The SB IEP PLoP of Jordan, a rising fourth grader, example from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) SB IEP website, contains wording that may lead to consideration of the VMAST:

“The IEP team has considered the use of goals and objectives in his current IEP and feels that a combination of both best meets his academic needs.  However, at this time, the IEP team does not feel that he will achieve grade level proficiency within the year.”

For a student who is not considering the VMAST but who will have an SB IEP, the academic goals will again address those skills that impede mastery of the grade-level content as defined by the SOL. In this situation, all of the components necessary to determine appropriate measurable annual goal(s) come into play, as demonstrated in Figure 1. 

Amanda, an eight-grade example from the VDOE SB IEP website, demonstrates the process of prioritizing the needs of the student through reviewing assessment data, developing the PLoP, and then applying that information within the worksheet.  The statement from the PLoP (see below) indicates areas of difficulty determined from assessments, whether formal or informal, that provide information about which areas of the eighth-grade math curriculum will present difficulty for Amanda to master.

PLoP Statement:

“She is unable to solve single-step and multi-step problems that involve addition and subtraction with fractions and mixed numbers that include denominators of 12 or less.    She is unable to check simply expressions by using the order of operations.   Amanda would benefit from additional math instruction and will need more time with concrete models of concepts and procedures before moving to the abstract.”

Amanda’s Worksheet


Figure 2. Excerpts from Amanda’s SB IEP worksheet.

Figure 2 shows areas identified using the PLoP that will hinder Amanda’s mastery of SOL 8.15 within the math curriculum.  The worksheet notes that this difficulty will require specialized instruction, and thus a goal for mastery.   The areas of difficulty that may prevent Amanda from achieving mastery of SOL 8.15 are marked with an “X.”  The items checked are from the Curriculum Framework, Essential Knowledge and Skills section.

Goal (focus on math SOL 8.15)

“Using concrete materials, pictorial representation and paper and pencil to illustrate the steps performed, Amanda will be able to solve two-step linear equations and inequalities, as measured by classroom assignments, teacher observations, and tests, with 80% accuracy.” 

William, another rising eighth grader, example from the VDOE SB IEP website, has an identified weakness in decoding.  This weakness is discussed within the PLoP, and, using all of the components outlined in Figure 1, a necessary academic goal was determined to be one that targeted and prioritized an SOL. 

PLoP Statement:

“The Slosson Test of Oral Reading, which assesses word recognition and decoding skills, administered on April 26, 2010, indicates decoding skills at the third-grade level.  Through teacher observations, it is noted that William is not a fluent reader above the second-grade level.  William achieves passing grades when assessments are read aloud and novels or passages in class are in audio format.”

Goal (focus on reading SOL 8.4):

“Using grade-level vocabulary, William will use affixes and knowledge of word origins to construct and decode words with 80% accuracy, as measured by teacher-constructed assessments within one year’s time.”

Further, due to an identified strength in the use of technology and the identified decoding weakness, an accommodation of digital text will be used within the general education classroom, while specialized instruction will focus on constructing and decoding vocabulary.

All annual measurable goals are to contain the five components identified as critical for a well-written goal:  student, timeframe, conditions, behavior, and criterion (p. 20 of the SB IEP Guidance Document).


Figure 3. Instructional strategies to address the skills targeted with the measurable annual goal.

A critical next step will be the selection of appropriate instructional strategies (see Figure 3) to be used to address William’s targeted needs within the general education curriculum and within the specialized instruction provided by the special educator.  Strategies that may be used to address William’s targeted need are discussed in the article “Teaching Morphology:  Enhancing Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension” (Stowe) in the WM TTAC Newsletter, September/October 2011,.


Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education Standards-Based Individual Education Plan website:  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/iep_instruct_svcs/stds-based_iep/index.shtml

Guidance Document: Standards-Based Individualized Program (IEP). (2010).  Commonwealth  of Virginia Department of Education.  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/iep_instruct_svcs/stds-based_iep/stds_based_iep_guidance.pdf

Stowe, M. M. (2011, September/October).  Teaching morphology:  Enhancing vocabulary development and reading comprehension.  Link Lines Newsletter.  Williamsburg, VA:  The College of William and Mary Training and Technical Assistance Center.  Retrieved from http://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/resources/newsletters/index.php

Additional Resources

Math Curriculum Frameworks –  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/mathematics/index.shtml

Math Vertical Articulations –http://twt.wm.edu/vadoe_math_resources.php

Seven Critical Questions to Be Considered Within the PLoP:

  • What skills/behaviors (academic/functional) is the student able/unable to perform?
  • What other needs, such as functional, organizational, and social skills, impact the student’s involvement and progress in the general curriculum?
  • What strategies, accommodations, and/or interventions have been successful in helping the student make progress in the general curriculum?
  • How does the identified disability affect involvement and progress in the general curriculum?
  • What are the parent concerns?
  • What are the student’s interests, preferences, and goals?  Include postsecondary aspirations based on age-appropriate transition assessments.
  • Is the student on track to achieve grade-level proficiency within the year?