Monterey County Office of Education

Leadership, Support and Service to Prepare All Students for Success

Dr. Deneen Guss, County Superintendent of Schools

Goal Setting: S.M.A.R.T. - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound

Be S.M.A.R.T. when writing IEP goals!

There are many different interpretations of the SMART acronym but all of them reflect a thoughtful process in which goal setting is individualized, precise and meets the needs of each student.

IEP goals should be:

Specific: State exactly what you want the student to achieve. Consider whether a larger task can be broken into smaller items or separate goals.

Measurable (Mutual, Motivated): Establish clear definitions to help you measure or whether the goal is being met.

Attainable (Achievable, Active, Action-Oriented): Outline the exact steps the student will use to meet the goal. Use “action” verbs to describe the steps.

Relevant (Realistic, Results-Oriented, Reviewable, Resourceful, Revisable, Rigorous): Set goals that the student will actually be able to accomplish. Be sure to consider obstacles that the student will need to overcome.

Time Bound (Timely, Time Limited, Timed): What is the time span in which to accomplish the goal? Are benchmarks needed?

13 Goal-Writing Considerations for IEPs

Consider the following by Jana L. Scott to help you draft SMART IEP goals for your students.


The information in the goal is Specific

  • Names of people or groups. For example: John, 3rd grade students, Mrs. Brown's third grade class, high school communication arts students, etc.
  • Numbers and/or percentages. For example: 30%, 50%
  • Dates, deadlines, or time spans. For example: by March 2011, by the end of the life of the IEP, within 6 weeks, on or before June 11, 2011, etc.
  • Skills or targeted areas for improvement. For example: ability to add and subtract two-place numbers, ability to read 4th grade Dolch sight words in context, oral reading fluency in non-fiction text, etc.

Note: Since SMART goals are used for many purposes, the level of specificity may carry between types/purposes of the goals. IEP goals tend to be very specific; whereas, district-wide goals are usually stated in more general terms.


The goal includes

  • a baseline and target score. For example: increase from 30 words per minute to 60 words per minute, increase from 60% to 805, decrease from 50 incidences per day to 25 incidences per day, etc.
  • an ending date or time span. For example: by March 2012, by the end of the life of the IEP, within a six-week period, by the end of the next school year, etc.

Note: Including a baseline and target score allows progress to be monitored towards mastery of the goal or achievement. Including an ending date or time span allows progress to be monitored in relation to time.


There are many ways for determining an ambitious yet reasonable, attainable target goal or expected end-result.

  1. Use national norms if available from various sources.
  2. Determine a baseline score (BLS) for typically-developing students at the grade-level where the student(s) is/are being monitored. Then determine an average weekly rate of improvement (WRI) for typically-developing students. Multiply the WRI by the number of instructional weeks available. Add the total number to the baseline score to find the target score.
    Formula: Target Goal = BLS + (# instructional weeks * WRI)
  3. Use state/national averages or benchmarks as a stating point; adjust up or down based on the local student population.
  4. For students progressing slower of more rapidly than typically developing students, identify a weekly rate of improvement for the targeted student(s) under baseline conditions using at least 5-8 data collections. Multiply this baseline rate by 1.5 and then multiply by the number of instructional weeks. Add this product to the baseline score to arrive at the target goal.
    Based on the Intra-individual Framework Model as shown in Using Curriculum-Based Measurement for Progress Monitoring in Reading.


The goal specifies

  • an ending date or specified time period. For example: by March 5, 2011, at the end of the life of the IEP, within a six-week period, by the 36th week of school, etc.
  • an instrument or method to measure progress. For example: as shown by a 10-question, teacher-made test for reading comprehension, as shown by MAP or EOC tests given in the Spring, as shown by a CBM for reading fluency, as shown by a district-level common summative assessment, etc.

Note: For specific students or for IEP goals, use caution when listing an exact instrument to measure progress. For example: AIMSweb Probe, MAP Scores, Stanford 10, etc. A child may transfer out of state, district, or building and the specified assessment may not be available. For this reason, it might be best to use general terms when specifying the assessment. For example: a CBM Reading Fluency Probe, State Test in Reading, Standardized Test in Reading, Reading Achievement Test, etc. Or use an assessment measure that can be accessed or created locally. For example: a 10-question reading comprehension test, a 20-question test of 2-digit addition problems, the 4th grade Dolch sight words, etc.


The goal specifies an end date or time span in which to accomplish the goal.

Some SMART goals have ending dates and others user time spans. Many times, if a goal addresses behavior, there is a time span listed instead of and ending date.

When writing IEPs, many teachers specify "for the life of the IEP" as the end date since IEPs may be written at different times during the year.

Consider the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) when drafting IEP goals. The following resources will provide assistance with aligning IEP goals to California’s CCSS:

  1. California’s Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects
  2. eStandards and eStandards Mobile are designed to provide quick and easy access to California's State Content Standards:
    • Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy
    • Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
    • English Language Development
    • Next Generation Science Standards

SIRAS Systems is the Special Education Support Program used by all school districts within Monterey County SELPA to develop and manage IEP’s. Within the IEP Manager, teachers can go to the Goal Developer and create new goals for a student using the Goal Wizard. The Wizard provides a template for creating a goal in a selected domain for an individual student.
*Think of this as a jumping off point from which you will adjust the goal to meet the needs of your particular student.

Goals within the Wizard are aligned to CCSS based on content area and specific skill/behavior being measured. A training video demonstrating how to use the Goal Wizard can be found within the SIRAS Login under Tools > Support > Training Videos

The Goal Developer Wizard!


Kenyon Hopkins, M.S.

SELPA Executive Director
Phone: 831.755.0342

Irenea Herrera

SELPA Administrative Assistant
Phone: 831.755.0342

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