“Do IEP Goals Reflect What My Child Needs?”

We live in an ever-changing society.  Our educational system keeps changing, along with the way our children are learning.  Before you sit in on your child’s next IEP meeting (Individualized Education Plan), take a few minutes to read this insightful article from NCES founder, Carole Richards.  Remember, as a parent, it is your right to ensure your child receives the best possible education.


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Do IEP Goals Reflect What My Child Needs?
by Carole Richards

Published June 2016

I have read thousands of Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) and Education Testing Reports (ETR’s) in my thirty plus years as head of North Coast Education Services.

For years, I complained that IEP goals reflected what the child is expected to do, but not how they will accomplish the goal.  For example, “Johnny will read at grade level in one year.”  That is great, but he is currently three levels below grade level.  Then this same goal would appear on the next IEP.

Now we have Common Core and everything changed.  Now goals are pretty specific.  For example, a 7th grade girl in a suburban school district has a very low IQ.  Her goal, “Given a grade level passage, she will answer questions about the author and their point of view.”  Now if I am looking toward this young lady’s future, it is important that she can function in society.  Can she count money?  Can she read instructions?  Can she write a simple letter?  The list is endless, but I don’t see her needing to discuss the point of view of the author with anyone in her family, circle of friends or business acquaintances.  Common Core Standards were developed to ensure students are “College Ready and Work Ready”.   Do you think knowing an author’s point of view is relevant to this girl’s ability to hold full-time employment with her low IQ?

Another one of our IEP students is ten years old.   He did not know all of his letters or numbers when his IEP was written at age ten after six years of school.  However, his IEP reads, “Given a card with a word on it, a sentence, paragraph, or a story, he will increase his foundational life skills by increasing his sight word vocabulary and answering comprehension.”

I think this ten year old needs to “walk before he can run”.  We started working on his word reading (i.e. cat, dog) and his word spelling of the same words and in just three months he is now spelling and reading three letter words.

Common Core in our Special Education World

I understand our children need to improve their skills.  However, raising the standards to impossible levels and expecting children to perform to unrealistic levels is ridiculous.  Further, the skills they learn should relate to the real world, not to some pie in the sky level in education land.

Schools Not to Blame

The schools and their staff are not to blame for this insanity.  They are given standards based on the age and grade level of each child.  And IEP goals are written based on these standards.  So these two student examples above are based on the expectation that a thirteen year old with a low IQ and a ten year old that still didn’t know his letters should be functioning based on grade level standards.

What Can a Parent Do?

Ask yourself if the IEP goals your child was given are important to your child’s self-sufficiency and life.  If they are not, question their purpose with your child’s school.

Also ask, “How does this goal ensure that my child will be College Ready or Work Ready?”  That is the purpose of Common Core.

Write to the Office of Exceptional Children (Exceptionalchildren@education.ohio.gov) or Sue Zake (sue.zake@education.ohio.gov) about how IEP goals are created for your student.  The Ohio Department of Education states, “Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) for students with disabilities should align with the same academic standards as their general education peers but have growth targets adjusted appropriately”.

Write to the U.S. Department of Education (service@cec.sped.org).  Its director is Melody Musgrove.  She is overseeing all special education needs for our country.

Most important, educate yourself on your child’s rights.  Go to Wright’s Law to read more about your child’s special education rights at www.wrightslaw.com.  You can also call or email me to further this discussion specifically related to your child’s situation.


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, author of Richards Learning Systems ®.  She is a frequent guest on radio and TV.  She can be reached at caroler@northcoasted.com.

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Dave Hoffman