How to Write Short Term Goals for an IEP

Written by colleen reinhart
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How to Write Short Term Goals for an IEP
Short-term IEP goals help educators monitor long-term student progress. (serious student image by Paul Moore from

While long-term goals for the school year are basic requirements for individual education plans--IEPs; defining short-term objectives is important for making sure that the student and educators stay on track. Defining intermittent milestones on the path to a more significant learning outcome encourages progress monitoring. If the student starts falling behind at any point in the school year, teachers have a chance to go back to the drawing board, use different teaching strategies or add support to help the student realise success. Writing realistic short-term goals starts with defining long-term educational targets.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Schedule a meeting at the beginning of the school year and involve the child's parents, teachers, special educators and any other professionals who help with the student's learning. Define the main areas for work and improvement--for example, reading and writing. Decide on realistic year-end goals, depending on the child's abilities and the resources available. For example, a fourth-grader with dyslexia reading at a first-grade level might be able to progress to a third-grade reading level by the end of the year. Aiming for a higher achievement, however, might be ambitious.

  2. 2

    Write year-end goals to describe how the student's abilities will change and detailing what kind of support you believe the child will need to achieve them. According to the organisation Kids Together Inc., IEP goals need to be described in terms of activities. Saying that Suzie will read at a third-grade level by the end of the year is not enough. Instead, write something like "By June 20, Suzie will independently read 250 words of third grade material out loud, at 60 words per minute, with no more than two mistakes." Writing an activity-based goal forces you to be specific--and accountable.

  3. 3

    Come up with three sub-goals that are steps on the way to achieving each year-end goal you have defined. If Suzie has to to reach her final reading goal by June 20, she should have checkpoint goals scheduled in November, February and April, according to the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education. For example, perhaps Suzie has some anxiety about reading out loud, so her first goal on Nov. 20 would involve her reading 50 words out loud, at a second-grade level, switching back and forth with a special educator to make it through a 250-word passage.

  4. 4

    Use your sub-goals to monitor progress and revisit expectations. If the student is falling below expectations or far exceeding them, call another meeting with educators and parents to discuss the reasons. In the case of a student falling behind, you might have to add more support or devote more time to meeting a goal. Whether the student is struggling or excelling, revisiting the end goal and the targets in between might be necessary. You might need to change the final goal and related sub-goals to increase or scale back the learning challenge.

Tips and warnings

  • Before writing IEP goals, make sure you know where the child stands in terms of the measurements you're using. For example, you might estimate that Suzie is reading at a first-grade level, but you need to know where she stands in terms of the metrics you're using to make sure you're setting suitable goals and seeing progress. How fast does Suzie read now, for example? How many words is she comfortable with reading out loud before you begin to see signs of frustration?

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