Tips for Writing an IEP

By Noreen J. O'Mahoney, CSW, SDA

At a glance

IEP annual goals state what your child will achieve by the end of the school year • Annual goals are supported by short-term objectives • Goals and objectives are specific, measurable, and time-bound


If this is your first IEP meeting, get a copy of the basic Individual Educational Program (IEP) form from your Special Education Director ahead of time. Review it carefully to understand the information required. If your child already has an IEP, make sure you review it prior to discussing a new IEP.

To develop an IEP you will need:

  • An accurate and comprehensive definition of your child’s needs. That should come from his evaluation, and your observations. Make sure each area in which your child needs help is included (e.g. reading, spelling, writing, math, social skills, motor skills, etc.).
  • A clear understanding of his present level of performance. You must include standardized test results comparing your child’s academic achievement levels to those of other children of the same age and grade level.
  • To specify services and goals that address your child’s disabilities. This requires knowledge of appropriate research-based services.
Writing Goals and Short-Term Objectives

Annual goals state what your child will learn and be able to do. They are supported by measurable short-term objectives (see below). Once you establish a measurable baseline, you can then set goals for improvement that can also be measured. “Johnny will improve his reading and spelling skills”is vague and not measurable. A better approach is: “To improve John’s word attack/decoding skills from a baseline score of ___on Woodcock Reading Mastery to a score of __ on the same test after one year.”

Each area of difficulty must be addressed with specific goals and objectives, known as short-term objectives. For example:

  1. John will read short-vowel sounds given in isolation with 100% accuracy.
  2. When given a short vowel sound, John will indicate the letter that makes the sound with 100% accuracy.
  3. John will learn to decode types of syllables in a progression (i.e. consonant/vowel/ consonant etc.).
  4. John will learn to spell each word he is learning to read.

In addition, each short-term objective should include dates indicating progress. For example No. 1 might include a target period of 10 weeks to read short-vowel sounds with 80% accuracy, and 12 weeks for 100% accuracy.

Noreen OMahoney is the founder and director of Collaborative Advocacy Associates, LLC, an advocacy organization that supports parents of children with LD and ADHD. 

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