Creating Meaningful and Measurable Early Childhood Individual Education Plan (IEP) Goals

 Creating Meaningful and Measurable Early Childhood Individualized Education Plans (IEP) Goals

 

Introduction

Early childhood professionals are required to write goals using the same methods and criteria as primary and secondary school staff, based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004). Little guidance has been provided to early childhood professionals as they overcome some of the inherent challenges in writing goals for young children.  IDEA regulations focus on the general education curriculum, which often means reading, writing, and arithmetic.

For preschool-age children, the general education curriculum is defined as "appropriate activities."  Appropriate activities include activities children of the same chronological age would engage in as part of a regular preschool curriculum or other informal activities.  Examples of such activities would include social interactions with peers and adults, pre-reading and math activities, sharing time, independent play, and listening skills. This document is an attempt to provide a framework by which early childhood professionals can more easily develop meaningful and measurable IEP goals.

Measurable annual goals set the direction for instruction in special education. They help families and teachers gauge a child's progress in the educational plan and assure that a steady flow of communication takes place. This document will focus on a four-step process:

 Developing Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance Statements

The statement of a child's Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) is the cornerstone of the individual education plan (IEP). The PLAAFP not only drives the IEP; it links all of the IEP components together. The purpose of the PLAAFP is to identify the child's needs and establish a baseline of the child's performance in appropriate activities (Kansas State Department of Education, 2008). Identifying specific needs and establishing a baseline begins the process of developing meaningful and measurable goals.

The PLAAFP statement is a brief and understandable narrative accurately describing the child's performance in all areas of education and functional activities that are affected by the child's disability. It is an objective synthesis of all information relevant to the child's development and educational performance, and serves as a bridge between the evaluation process and the measurable annual goals. It is important to remember that the PLAAFP is not a full repeat of the evaluation team report. A PLAAFP statement must contain, at a minimum: information about the child's current functioning and information about the impact of the child's disability in relation to appropriate activities. In addition, the IEP must contain measurable baseline date, which may be reported in the PLAAFP or in another location on the IEP. By summarizing the data, and establishing a baseline, a solid framework is established from which measurable annual goals can be created.

The PLAAFP Should

The PLAAFP must also include statements, as appropriate, regarding health, vision, hearing, social-emotional status, general intelligence, educational performance, communicative status, motor abilities, and developmental status (Kansas State Department of Education, 2011). Parental concerns may also be addressed in the PLAAFP at the discretion of the IEP team. There must be documentation that the concerns of the parents were considered when developing the IEP, but this information does not necessarily have to be written in the PLAAFP (K.S.A. 72-987(d)). 

Appropriate Activities

"Appropriate activities" are defined as those activities that children of the same age would take part in if they were enrolled in preschool, child care, mother's day out programs, or in their home with their family. Such activities may include emergent literacy and math, listening to stories, dramatic play, participating in small and/or large groups, playing with friends, interacting with adults, singing songs, constructing buildings with blocks, coloring and painting, etc. 

Under current regulations, the IEP team must describe in the PLAAFP how the child's disability affects their involvement and progress in appropriate activities. By identifying how a child's delay affects his or her ability to progress in appropriate activities, the IEP team can easily identify and prioritize needs from which to create goals.  For example, if Suzie's delay in expressive language is keeping her from making friends (Suzie is unable to verbally initiate, respond to and, maintain social interactions) this need could be identified as a priority since the ability to make and keep friends is a critical skill for young children.   

The Relationship Between the PLAAFP and Measurable Annual Goals

There should be a direct relationship between the PLAAFP and the measurable annual goals.  Each area of need identified in the PLAAFP must be addressed somewhere in the IEP. Most needs will be addressed as measurable annual goals, but needs may also be addressed in other ways.

Some needs identified in the PLAAFP may be addressed within routine classroom activities without additional intervention or support. In such cases, the team would include a statement in the "special considerations section" of the IEP, and thus, not need to write a goal. However, in most cases, needs identified on the PLAAFP are addressed by writing measurable annual goals and anyone reading the IEP should see a direct relationship between the goals that were selected and the needs outlined in the PLAAFP.

Describing Child Performance

Early childhood professionals will find it difficult to describe a child's performance in appropriate activities if they have not collected enough information during the evaluation process.  Many teams spend large amounts of time assessing children using published norm-referenced instruments. These instruments assess child performance within developmental domains (e.g., cognitive, social/emotional, self-help, motor, and com-communication) and describe that performance relative to peers of the same age.

Items from norm reference tests represent a wide range of content, and are not specific to a particular curriculum or activities. In addition, scores recorded on norm-referenced tests reflect a band of scores (standard error of measurement) not an exact score. For example, if the standard error of measurement is 6, and a child receives a standard score of 65, that means 95 times out of 100 when given the same test, the child will receive a score somewhere between 60 and 70.  For these reasons scores produced using norm referenced instruments are not specific or sensitive enough to be used for baseline data.

Norm referenced tests help answer the question, "Is there a delay in the child's development?". Although this is important information and may help establish eligibility, it is only one piece of the evaluation process. The second question to be answered is, "If a delay exists, how is that delay affecting the child's ability to participate and progress in appropriate activities?". This question will be answered through other methods of assessment.

To assess how a delay affects a child's ability to participate in appropriate activities, the team must use evaluation measures that examine a child within authentic activities. The team can use a variety of formal and informal measures, such as published curriculum-based assessments or criterion-referenced tests, structured observations, rating scales, rubrics, portfolio assessments, work sample analysis, language samples, and checklists. Information collected using such methods will provide good baseline data to be used in the PLAAFP. In addition the tool or method used to establish PLAAFP baseline data will later be used to measure the overall accomplishment of the goal.

Establishing a Baseline in the PLAAFP

The PLAAFP helps to establish the baseline for measurable annual goals. A baseline is a starting point from which to measure progress. Without good baseline data, it is difficult for parents and staff to evaluate the effectiveness of the educational plan. Therefore, teams should choose their baseline data wisely. Baseline data should be stated in clear and concise terms.  If test scores are used in the PLAAFP to establish baseline, they should be written in understandable terms, free of jargon and relate to developmental outcomes. The same criteria used to report baseline must be used to measure progress toward the annual goals. The following are some examples of baseline data statements:

Example PLAAFPS

 1.  Katie is an outgoing 4-year old girl who has motor delays. She is above average intellectually and is very verbal.  Katie has many friends at home and at school, and is described by her teachers as very motivated to learn new things. Katie enjoys preschool and spends time in all of the learning centers. During classroom activities, Katie is able to hold crayons, markers and other writing utensils in her fist, and make scribbles on paper. She paints using downward strokes only with a paintbrush, as noted in structured observations and work sample analysis. Typically, children of the same age hold writing utensils between their thumb and forefingers and can copy lines, circles and simple figures. They are able to make up and down strokes as well as circular patterns with a paintbrush. Katie's fine motor abilities keep her from being able to create representational artwork like that of other children her same age.

2.  Sally enjoys listening to stories individually, with an adult, and is able to maintain her attention from the beginning to the end of a story. Structured observations conducted during large-group activities (lasting 15 minutes or more) indicate that Sally is able to maintain her attention to the speaker of the group for 2 minutes without physical or verbal support from staff. After the 2-minute time frame, staff must physically redirect Sally back to circle time as Sally frequently tries to leave the group to play with other toys in the classroom. Typically, children of the same age will attend to a group activity for approximately 10 minutes with minimal verbal redirection. Sally's attention span interferes with her ability to gain new information from group activities such as story-time.

3.  Joe has many friends, and enjoys participating in group activities. Joe is easy to work with, maintains good eye contact, and follows directions well. During playtime activities, Joe is unable to communicate his wants and needs easily. In a 100-word sample of spontaneous speech, Joe had a whole-word accuracy score of 23%. Joe has difficulty describing things and events to his peers and adults when those items or events are not immediately present. In these situations Joe is unable to use his strong non-verbal communication to help others understand him.

4.  Emily uses single words, signs, and a few 2-3 word combinations to communicate her wants and needs at home and at school. She initiates social interactions with her peers and labels objects in her environment. Typically, children Emily's age use 4-5 word sentences to communicate wants and needs.  During a 20-minute play period with peers, Emily used 18 single word utterances (5 utterances also included a sign) and 2 word combination (my shoe). When 2 word combinations were modeled for Emily, she initiated only the last word of the phrase. Emily's parents report that they have a difficult time understanding what Emily wants or needs.

 

Essential Elements of PLAAFP Statements

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Writing Measurable Annual Goals

Measurable annual goals are statements that describe what a child with a disability can reasonably be expected to accomplish within a 12-month period in the child's education program. There should be a direct relationship between the measurable annual goals and the needs identified in the PLAAFP. Measurable annual goals must be related to meeting the child's needs that result from the child's disability, thus enabling the child to be involved in and progress in appropriate activities. Every need identified in the PLAAFP must be addressed somewhere in the IEP. Most often, these needs will be addressed as annual goals. Well-written goals are meaningful and measurable. Meaningful and measurable goals can be easily monitored, and therefore are useful to teachers in making educational decisions.

Writing Meaningful Goals

A goal is meaningful when it describes a behavior/skill that will have a real impact on the success of a child in current, as well as future environments. Therefore, the IEP team should select goals that are not likely to develop without intervention. Goals are meaningful when they enhance and address multiple areas in a child's life, when they match a child's developmental level, and are based on the progress a child can reasonably be expected to achieve within 12 months.

A good way to determine if a goal is meaningful is to apply the "so what" test. Ask yourself, "What will the ability to achieve this goal do for the child?" The following is an example of the "so what" test:

Goal

In 12 months, during personal sharing time at school, Kelly will appropriately respond to the topic and initiations of others (i.e., stay on topic, ask pertinent questions, make related statements) 80% of given opportunities, as measured on 5 consecutive, structured observations. 

So What?

Kelly will be able to gain appropriate information, maintain positive relationships with peers and adults, and function appropriately in group activities.

In this example, there are many benefits to Kelly in accomplishing the goal. The answers to the "so what" test indicate this is a useful  skill for Kelly, and therefore the goal is meaningful. Had the team been unable to provide a good answer to the "so what" test, then the goal would not be functional and another goal should be selected.

A second test used by teams to identify the appropriateness of a goal is the "stranger test". Goals should be written so that anyone who is working with the child, including the parents, can use the information to develop appropriate intervention plans and assess the child's progress.

Writing Measurable Goals

The word measurable implies that something can be observed and/or counted in some manner. Behaviors such as walking up the stairs unassisted, asking a friend to play, and pretending that a block is a phone are observable, and therefore measurable. Final products that are a result of attained goals are also measurable. To make a goal measurable, the following components must be included:

      Timeframe: This is usually spelled out in the number of weeks or a certain date for completion of the goal.

            In 36 instructional weeks…

            By November 19, 20xx…

Condition: This specifies the setting, accommodations, and description of the assessment method and/or the manner in which progress toward the goal is measured.

            During  small group activities…

            When given a directive…

            When asked to complete a 4-piece puzzle

Behavior: This clearly identifies the performance being monitored, and reflects an action that can be directly observed and is measurable.

Sally will look at the speaker of the group.

Rex will follow a one step direction.

Emily will spontaneously use 15 or more two-word combinations to express her wants and needs.

Criterion: This identifies how much, how often, and to what standard the behavior must occur in order to demonstrate that the goal has been reached. 

For 10 minutes, 4 out 5 consecutive observational periods…

Within one minute, 3 times a day, for 2 weeks…

5 times during a 20-minute time period…

In 6 out of 10 trials…

To write measurable goals, start with the baseline data provided in the PLAAFP. What do you know about what the child can do? In the first PLAAFP example, we know that Katie is able to hold crayons, markers and other writing utensils in her fist, and make scribbles on paper. She paints using down strokes only with a paintbrush.  Given the baseline information we also know that a typically developing child of the same age holds the same types of utensils between the thumb and forefingers. These are all observable behaviors and can therefore be measured. We also know from the PLAAFP that Katie's inability to hold the writing utensils between her thumb and forefingers is keeping her from being able to create representational artwork like that of other children her same age. We could hypothesize that without intervention, Katie will improve in her ability to draw because she doesn't avoid these types of activities in school, and has the cognitive skills necessary for this skill. However, we also know that Katie's peers will be improving at a much faster rate. Without intervention, the gap between Katie's skills and her peers will continue to get larger. Given this information we could write a measurable goal as follows:

In 12 months, when provided with writing utensils (crayons, markers, pencils), Katie will create representational artwork while holding writing utensils between her thumb and forefingers on 4 out of 5 consecutive opportunities.

It's worth repeating

Example Annual Goals

 The following are examples of measurable annual goals. They contain a timeframe, condition, specific behavior and criterion.

You Try

Using the information you have learned, how would you re-write the following goals?  

1.     In 12 months, Garrett will improve his personal-social skills by 6 months according to the Battelle Developmental Inventory.

2.     Samantha will increase her adaptive skills by six months by improving toileting skills with 40% accuracy.

3.     Brett will improve his cognitive skills by 6 months by working on his perceptual discrimination skills with 90% accuracy.

4.     Heather will increase her ability to complete a variety of daily living skills by completing the following benchmarks with 100% accuracy.

5. Cody will improve his stability and mobility to improve his classroom participation by accomplishing 100% of the stated benchmarks, by October 20, 200x.

 

Essential Elements of Measurable Annual Goals

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Article: Dr. Phil on Prioritizing IEP Goals

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 Writing Short Term Objectives/Benchmarks

The purpose of both short-term objectives and benchmarks is to gauge, at intermediate times during the year, how well the child is progressing toward achievement of the annual goal. There is no rule governing when a short-term objective should be written instead of a benchmark. When IDEA was reauthorized in 2004, the requirement for including short-term objectives or benchmarks in the IEP was changed. Specifically, there is no longer a requirement to include short-term objectives/benchmarks unless a child will be taking an alternative state assessment. At this time there are no formal state assessments given to preschool-age children, so there is no longer a requirement to include short-term objectives/benchmarks for this population of children.

  While not required, short-term objectives/benchmarks continue to be a useful com-componente of an IEP by providing intermediate gauges of progress toward the overall goal. Some districts require teachers to include short-term objectives/benchmarks, so remember to follow your district's guidance if it differs from the state. Young children can have significant gains in their development within the course of a year, and the use of short-term objectives or benchmarks are an appropriate vehicle for monitoring not only the progress of the child, but also the effectiveness of specific interventions. Without short-term objectives or benchmarks IEP teams may have inadequate information for adapting or modifying interventions in a timely manner, thus prohibiting the child's ability to make the necessary progress toward the annual goal.

Short-term Objectives

Short-term objectives are written in the same manner as measurable annual goals. They are measurable, intermediate steps between the child's baseline data established in the PLAAFP and the measurable annual goal. Short-term objectives break the goal into discrete components and are written in hierarchical order. They include the same components as the goal (timeframe, conditions, behavior, and criterion).

            Examples of Short-term Objectives:

Benchmarks

Benchmarks are major milestones that describe content to be learned or skills to be performed in sequential order. These are commonly used when working with process skills, or a complex task made up of other smaller tasks or skills. Like short-term objectives, benchmarks include a timeframe, condition, and behavior.  However, benchmarks do not include a criterion for mastery.  The underlying thought is "Can the child do the skill or not". It is important not to confuse IEP benchmarks with district benchmarks.  

            Examples of Benchmarks:

 

Essential Elements of Short-Term Objectives/Benchmarks

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Reporting Progress and Monitoring Strategies

After goals and objectives are written, the team must also identify the methods they will use to measure and report the progress the child is making toward attaining the goal. By writing the goal, the first step in this process has already been completed. The goal has spelled out the skills to be achieved and the criterion under which accomplishment of the goal will be established. 

Now the team must establish a more specific strategy for monitoring progress throughout the year. They must decide:

The manner in which this requirement is implemented is left to the discretion of each IEP team. It is dependent on how and when reporting is provided within the district. The reporting may be carried out in writing or through a meeting with the parents (including documentation of information shared at the meeting). Whatever methods are decided upon, the IEP team must provide sufficient information to enable parents to be informed of (1) their child's progress toward the annual goals, and (2) the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the IEP goals by the end of the year.

            Example Measurable Annual Goal:

            In 36 instructional weeks, during group activities, Sally will attend to the

            speaker of the group for 10 minutes with limited support from staff, for

            4 out of 5 consecutive observational periods.

Monitoring Strategy

In the above example, the team will identify specific days and times in which observational data will be collected. The team will also identify who will collect the data. This could include the classroom teacher and/or other support staff who would be available to conduct a time sample observation for at least 10 minutes during specified group activities. The term "observational periods" implies a specified time when the child will be observed using predetermined criteria. The team may schedule these observational periods over a few days or a few weeks. In order for this goal to be met, Sally must be observed exhibiting the stated skill in the goal for at least 4 out of 5 of these observational periods. 

Anyone who works with young children knows that scheduling can be a nightmare. Writing the goal using the terms "4 out of 5 observational periods" allows the team to be flexible should Sally not show up to school one day because of a cold or illness. In this case, the team would only need to schedule another time for an observation to take place. 

Some might argue that the previous example is a lofty goal; however, it is important to remember that the team will gauge Sally's progress toward this goal using either benchmarks or objectives. Sally will accomplish the goal if she is able to accomplish the intermediate steps identified in the benchmarks or objectives. The team will send information regarding Sally's progress at the same time that grade cards and progress reports are sent. If Sally is not making progress towards her objectives, and consequently her goal, the team will need to determine if other instructional methods or interventions need to be employed.

Incorporating Early Childhood Outcomes as the Basis for Meaningful Goals

Early childhood outcomes (ECO) are the results we want as a consequence of children receiving early childhood special education services; and are, therefore, ideally suited to be the basis for the development of meaningful IEPs for young children. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) identified three early childhood outcomes as a means to examine the effectiveness of programs serving young children with disabilities.  Since 2006 Kansas ECSE teams have been required to rate children on the three outcomes when they first enter early childhood special education services and when they permanently exit early childhood special education services.  Information on the ECO rating process can be found on the KITS web site.

The Three Early Childhood Outcomes are:

1.    Positive social-emotional skills (including social relationships)

2.    Acquisition and use of knowledge and skills (including early language/ communication, and literacy)

3.    Use of appropriate behaviors to meet their needs

Each outcome is measured in terms of a child's functional use of skills across settings and situations, rather than isolated skills split by domains. There is no requirement in Kansas that teams consider the ECOs when developing an IEP, however by integrating the IEP and ECO process, teams will find it easier to not only identify and prioritize functional IEP goals, but also complete the requirements for the ECO rating process.

During the assessment process, the same type of information collected to document how a child's disability may impact their participation in appropriate activities can be used to document a child's functional use of skills as they relate to the ECO areas. By focusing on the three outcomes during the assessment process, teams can use a variety of formal and informal measures (e.g. curriculum-based assessments, criterion-referenced tests, structured observations, interviews) to document a child's functioning across the three ECO areas. This information will also be helpful to teams as they write PLAAFP statements.

The three outcome areas are comprehensive and represent abilities young children should accomplish as a result of their participation in our early childhood programs. Therefore, discussions during transition and IEP meetings can be structured around strengths and needs as they relate to the three outcome areas. PLAAFP statements written to include information regarding ECO will lead to goals that focus on building skills related to a child's functioning in the outcome areas.

The use of a curriculum-based assessment is a required component of completing the Child Outcome Summary Form (COSF), when a child initially enters preschool special education services and when they permanently exit the program. Curriculum-based assessment tools are an effective method of gathering information useful for program planning and monitoring child progress within the general education curriculum. Teams are encouraged to use curriculum-based assessments at regular intervals (3 to 4 times each year) while a child is in their program to monitor the child's growth and development across developmental domains. This information will be helpful to teams writing annual IEPs by providing information related to a child's growth across the regular education curriculum, their functional use of skills, and the child's rate of learning.

Strategies for Integrating Outcomes IEP Process (NECTAC, 2011)

Example ECO Integration

Child specific information can be organized using the Early Childhood Outcome and IEP Review Summary Form to help teams identify areas of strength and needs related to the three Early Childhood Outcomes. Using this informait on, teams can prioritize and select goals that will support a child's growth across the three outcome areas. In the example below, the team has identified areas of strength and need associated with Outcome 2: Acquiring and using Knowledge.

Example Outcome 2: Johnny

Outcome 2: To what extent does the child show age appropriate functioning, across a variety of settings and situations, related to the acquisition and use of knowledge and skills?

Involves:

  • Thinking
  • Reasoning
  • Remembering
  • Problem solving
  • Using symbols and language
  • Understanding physical and social worlds

Includes:

  • Early concepts - symbols, pictures, numbers, classification, spatial relationships
  • Imitation
  • Object permanence
  • Expressive language and communication
  • Early literacy

Strengths

  • Able to group by classification
  • When faced with a problem will usually ask for adult assistance
  • Shows understanding of some age appropriate concepts (colors, big/little, in/on)
  • Copies simple shapes and 3 letters of first name
  • Beginning representational drawing.
  • Counts 2 objects correctly.
  • Able to use two hands to manipulate objects
  • Answers simple factual questions

Areas for growth

  • When given 2 or 3 step directions, will follow 1 of the steps before requiring adult support.
  • Needs visual cues to choose from when making a prediction about a story or event.
  • Not able to answer questions (how, why)

 

 

 

Based on the above information, Johnny's PLAAFP statement and goals might include:

PLAAFP

Johnny has acquired some beginning concept knowledge. He is able to classify objects by size and basic attribute, name colors, understand beginning concepts (colors, size, prepositions), name 5 letters of his name, and count up to two objects correctly. He is beginning to create representational drawings, cut out shapes with straight lines, and is able to write three letters of his first name. When listening to a story or talking about immediate events, he is able to answer simple factual questions. Johnny has more difficulty with tasks that are less concrete. When given 2 or 3 step directions, Johnny will follow the first step but requires adult support for the remainder of the steps. This makes it difficult for Johnny to function independently within a preschool classroom. He has difficulty asking questions and answering "how" and "why" questions. During a small group story time, Johnny answered 1 of 6 "how/why" questions asked about the story.  This indicates Johnny has difficulty with story comprehension.

Goal 1: By Oct. 20xx, while participating in preschool classroom activities, Johnny will independently follow routine directions of 3 related steps in 4 of 5 opportunities across 3 consecutive days.

Benchmarks:

Goal 2: By Oct. 20xx, when discussing a story, Johnny will answer 8 out of 10 "why" and  "how" questions in a mixed question probe.

STO:

 

References

Kansas State Department of Education Student Support Services. (2011). The Individualized Education Program. In Special education process handbook (pp. 4-15, -16, -19, -20, -21). Topeka: Author.

National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC),  (2011). Integrating Outcomes - Individual Education Planning (IEP) Process. Retrieved from http://leadershipmega-confreg.tadnet.org/uploads/file_assets/ attachments/139/original_IEP-Outcomes_Flow_Chart.pdf?1279906774

Nebraska Department of Education. (n.d.). Present level of education performance. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from http://www.nde.state.ne.us/SPED/technicalassist/iepproj/develop/pre.html

U. S. Department of Education Office of Special Education. (n.d.). IDEA practices: Special education questions and answers written by the experts. Retrieved January 22, 2003, from http://www.ideapractices.org/qanda/qanda.php?showCat=33&showSub=37 - top

Walsh, S., Smith, B. J., & Taylor, R. C. (2000). IDEA requirements for preschoolers with disabilities: IDEA early childhood policy and practice guide.  Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Wright, P. D., & Wright, P. W. (2003). Your child's IEP: Practical and legal guidance for parents. Retrieved January 22, 2003, from http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/iep_guidance.html

 

 

 

Guided Practice

Example 1

PLAAFP

Chris is able to build simple block structures. He can cut on a line when assisted with hand placement on scissors and copy a line (vertical and horizontal) though he switches the writing utensil in his hands frequently, during all activities.

Measurable Annual Goal

In 36 weeks, Chris will improve his fine motor skills within the daily classroom routine to a more age appropriate level by meeting the listed benchmarks.

Benchmarks

Copy a circle using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

Copy a cross, using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

Copy a square, using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

What do you think about this PLAAFP?

What Do You Think?

PLAAFP

Chris is able to build simple block structures. He can cut on a line when assisted with hand placement on scissors and copy a line (vertical and horizontal) though he switches the writing utensil in his hands frequently, during all activities.

1.     Does it tell us what Chris can do now, not what he did in the past?  

Yes. We know Chris is able to build simple block structures, cut on lines when assisted with hand placement on the scissors, and copy lines (vertical and horizontal) though he switches his hands frequently.

2.     Is it stated in terms that are specific, measurable and objective? Can you see it, hear it or count it?

Yes. The description in this PLAAFP provides us with information that we can see and count. Specifically, we know that Chris switches hands when holding onto a writing utensil. He does this frequently and across all situations. We also know that Chris can cut on a line when someone helps him put his fingers around the scissors correctly, but he is unable to do this on his own.  

3.     Does it describe the effect of the disability on Chris's progress in appropriate activities?  

No. There is no statement regarding what this is keeping Chris from being able to do within age appropriate activities. An easy way to correct this portion of the PLAAFP would be to include a statement regarding what children his age are able to do. This sets the stage to illustrate exactly what Chris isn't getting to do and how it is affecting his ability to participate and progress in appropriate activities. The following example could be inserted to help correct this portion of the PLAAFP: " Children of the same age are able to copy a circle, cross, and square in their drawings. A delay in this area prevents Chris from being able to engage in prewriting activities."

4.     Does it identify and prioritize specific needs that will be written as goals?  

          Yes. Information is provided in a straightforward manner, making it easy to identify needs as well as indicate what skills are priorities for this child.

5.     Does it identify strengths as they relate to possible interventions?

Yes. Chris is able to build simple block structures, cut on lines with assistance, and draw lines to some degree. While this PLAAFP doesn't list these skills specifically as strengths, they are things that Chris is able to do. It isn't mandatory to write strengths in the PLAAFP section, however, information regarding a child's specific or relative strengths can be valuable in helping the team determine what skills are a priority. Information regarding strengths may also prove useful when identifying specific interventions.

6.     Does it provide baseline data for the need?  

Yes. A baseline has been established, but it could have been written with more information that would make the next step of writing goals easier. In this example we are still missing information regarding the conditions in which the behaviors were observed (i.e., during paper and pencil, art, or direct instruction activities) or the specific method in which the data was collected (i.e., when asked to draw a line on a piece of paper after watching a model). By including the conditions and methods of data collection in the PLAAFP, goal writing will be easier since it is necessary to include that information in the goal.

Annual Goal

In 36 weeks, Chris will improve his fine motor skills within the daily classroom routine to a more age appropriate level by meeting the listed benchmarks.

Is the goal measurable?   Does it contain all the required information?

Timeframe:               in 36 weeks                                                     Yes

Conditions:               within the daily classroom routine                     Yes                                

Behavior:                  will improve his fine motor skills to a more age appropriate level No

Criterion:                    by meeting the listed benchmarks                                         No

This example is not a measurable goal. In this goal, the behavior and criterion are not specific, observable or measurable. The behavior, "improve fine motor skills to a more age appropriate level" does not provide a clear picture of what this child will be doing in 12 months as a result of intervention. It is not specific enough to be measurable.

Another problem is the statement "as measured by the listed benchmarks". All the necessary information must be included in the goal.   In this example the necessary information is listed in the benchmarks. Thus the goal does not pass the "stranger test". Without seeing the benchmarks the reader would have no idea what to expect of this child in a year.

In this example the only intervention needed for Chris to improve his skills in this area is to participate in the daily curriculum of the preschool program (perhaps with adaptive equipment). The team may feel this does not illustrate a high priority need and could elect to address it in another portion of the IEP. For example, they might indicate that adaptive equipment will be provided throughout the preschool day to address his fine motor needs, and record this information in the services section of the IEP, rather than including it as a goal.

Remember, needs identified in the PLAAFP must be addressed somewhere in the IEP. In most cases they will be addressed as goals, in some cases they can be addressed somewhere else on the IEP.  

Benchmarks

Copy a circle using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

Copy a cross, using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

Copy a square, using tripod or adapted tripod grasp & writing utensil.

 Do the benchmarks contain all the required information?

          No. The benchmarks listed do not include the time. They do, however, include all other elements (e.g., behavior, conditions)

 

Example 2

PLAAFP

Sammi achieved an age equivalent score of 35 months on the auditory comprehension portion of the Language and Comprehension Preschool Scale. She scored 38 months on the expressive communication portion of this test and overall scored in the moderately severe range of communication.

Measurable Annual Goal

In 36 instructional weeks, Sammi will increase her speech and language skills to age appropriate levels with 80% accuracy.

Short-term objectives

In 9 weeks, Sammi will produce /l/ in all positions in words, phrases and sentences with 80% accuracy.

In 18 weeks, Sammi will produce /l/ in all positions in spontaneous speech with 80% accuracy

In 27 weeks, Sammi will use pronouns appropriately in spontaneous speech with 80% accuracy.

What Do You Think?

PLAAFP 

1.     Does the PLAAFP tell us what Sammi can do now, not what she did in the past?

          Yes. It does appear that the data is in reference to the latest assessment information.

2.     Is it stated in terms that are specific, measurable and objective? Can you see it, hear it or count it?  

Yes/No. While age scores are provided in the PLAAFP, the description of the behavior is not specific enough to understand what Sammi is really able to do. All we really know is the score the child achieved on this instrument. We do not have detailed information regarding specific skills. In addition, age scores are not easily understood providing even less information from which to build on later in the process.   

3.     Does it describe the effect of the disability on Sammi's progress in appropriate activities?

No. We know that Sammi's scores fell in the moderately severe range of communication, but we do not know how that affects Sammi's ability to progress in appropriate activities.  

4.     Does it identify and prioritize specific needs that will be written as goals?

          No. Information provided was too general. Not enough information was provided from which specific needs could be identified and goals written.

5.     Does it identify strengths as they relate to possible interventions?

          No.

6.     Does it provide baseline data for the need?

No. Age scores are not good measures to use in monitoring progress over a short period of time. Not enough information was provided to establish a baseline.  

Annual Goal

In 36 instructional weeks, Sammi will increase her speech and language skills to age appropriate levels with 80% accuracy.

 Is this goal measurable? Does it contain all the required information?

Timeframe:               in 36 instructional weeks                                                   Yes

Conditions :                 **********                                                                             No

Behavior:                       will increase her speech and language skills to age appropriate levels No

Criterion:                       with 80% accuracy                                                                         No

 This example is not a measurable goal. The behavior is not specific enough to fully understand what Sammi will be doing this time next year (e.g., increase her speech and language skills to age appropriate levels). In addition the criterion is not tied to anything (e.g., 80% of what?). This goal is also missing information regarding the conditions in which the behavior will be observed (i.e., during free choice and center time activities). Finally, this goal does not pass the "stranger test", and is, therefore, not meaningful. This is an unacceptable goal.    

Short-term Objectives

In 9 weeks, Sammi will produce /l/ in all positions in words, phrases and sentences with 80% accuracy.

In 18 weeks, Sammi will produce /l/ in all positions in spontaneous speech with 80% accuracy

In 27 weeks, Sammi will use pronouns appropriately in spontaneous speech   with 80% accuracy.

Do the benchmarks contain all the required information

Timeframe:               in 9, 18, 27 weeks                                                                         Yes

Conditions :                 **********                                                                                           No            

Behavior:                       will produce /l/ in all positions in words, phrases, sentences Yes

Criterion                       with 80% accuracy                                                                       No

The criterion statement is ambiguous because the goal is missing the statement of the conditions in which the behavior would be observed.

 

Resources, Forms and Checklists

IEP Quality Rating Form

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Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

Revised IEP Goals and Objectives Rating Instrument (R-GORI)

R_GORI.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

Best Practices in Goal Setting

Best Practice in Goal Setting.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

 

Kansas Early Learning Standards Alignment with the Early Childhood Outcomes

kseld-eco image.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

Integrating Child Outcome Measurement Into the IEP Process Practices Summary Worksheet

integrating ECOimage.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

Early Childhood Outcome and IEP Review Summary Form

ECO IEP Review Sheet.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ IEP image.jpg

Click on the image above to open pdf document

 

 

Print Resources  

*Bagnato, S., Neisworth, J., & Pretti-Frontczak (2010). Linking authentic assessment and early childhood intervention: Best measures for best practices. Baltimore: Brookes.

Bentzen, W. R. (2008). Seeing young children: A guide to observing and recording behavior (6th ed.). Albany, NY: Delmar.

*Curtis, D. & Carter, M.   (2002) The art of awareness: How observation can transform your teaching. St. Paul: Redleaf Press.

*Chambers, C. R. & Childre, A. L. (2005). Fostering family-professional collaboration through person-centered IEP meetings: The "true directions" model, Young Exceptional Children, 8:20- 28.

Christle, C.A. (2010). Individualized education programs: Legal requirements and research findings, Exceptionality, 18:3, 109- 123.

*Colker, L. J., (1995). Observing young children: Learning to look, looking to learn.   Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies. (video)

Division for Early Childhood. (2007). Promoting positive outcomes for children with disabilities: Recommendations for curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation. Retrieved June, 13, 2011 from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/ PrmtgPositiveOutcomes.pdf

Grisham-Brown, J., Pretti-Fronczak, K., Hemmeter, M. L. Ridgley, R.   (2002). Teaching IEP goals and objectives: In the context of classroom routines and activities, Young Exceptional Children. 6: 18 - 27.

Hojnoski, R. L., Gischlar, K.L., Missall, K.N. (2009). Improving child outcomes with data-based decision making: graphing data, Young Exceptional Children, 12: 15- 30.  

Horn, E. & Banerjee, R. (2009). Understanding curriculum modifications and embedded learning opportunities in the context of supporting all children's success, Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 406-415.

Horn, E., Lieber, J., Li, S., Sandall, S. & Schwartz, I. (2000). Supporting young children's IEP goals in inclusive settings through embedded learning opportunities, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 20:4, 208 - 223.

Jung, L.A. (2007). Writing SMART objectives and strategies that fit the routine, Teaching Exceptional Children, Mar/Apr, 54- 58.

Kansas Inservice Training System, Early Childhood Outcome Resources   http://www.kskits.org/ta/ECOOutcomes/Index.shtml

Kansas State Department of Education Student Support Services. (2008). The Individualized Education Program. In   The Kansas special education process handbook Topeka. Retrieved from http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket= v14pER6l8ng%3d&tabid=3152&mid=8268

*Losardo, A., & Notari-Syverson, A (2011). Alternative approaches to assessing young children.   Baltimore: Brookes.

Notari-Syverson, A.R., & Schuster, S. L. (1995)   Putting real life skills into IEP/IFSPs for infants and young children.   Teaching Exceptional Children, 27(2), 29-32.

Nylander, D. (2010). Nylander Annual Report ECO Worksheet. Paper presented at the 2010 OSEP Leadership Mega Conference. Retrieved   June 2011 from http://leadershipmega-conf-reg.tadnet.org/uploads/file_assets/attachments/228/ original_Nylander_Annual_Report_w-ECO_worksheet.pdf?1280160000

Office of Special Education Programs. (2001, November/December). Access to the general curriculum: Questions and answers. Teaching Exceptional Children, 34, (2), 84-85.

 Office of Special Education Programs. (2006).   IDEA'2004 Amendments, Final Regulations, Retrieved June 13, 2011 from http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cregs%2C

 Pretti-Frontczak, K. o Bricker, D. (2000) Enhancing the quality of individualized education plan (IEP) goals and Objectives, Journal of Early Intervention, 23:2, 92-105.

 *Sandall, S. (Ed.). (2004). DEC recommended practices: A comprehensive guide for practical application. Denver, CO: Sopris West.

 *Sandall, S., Schwartz, I. & Joseph, G. E. (2008). Building blocks for teaching preschoolers with special needs.   Baltimore: Brookes.

 U.S Department of Education   (2010) Questions and Answers On Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Evaluations, and Reevaluations " http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/%2Croot%2Cdynamic%2CQaCorner%2C3%2C

 Wright, P. D., & Wright, P. W. (2003). Your child's IEP: Practical and legal guidance for parents. Retrieved January 22, 2003, from http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/iep_guidance.html

For those in Kansas,the resources marked with an asterisk (*) can be borrowed from the KITS Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC).

 

National Resources

 

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) The Division for Early Childhood

27 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 2

Missoula, MT   59804

(406) 543-0872

 email - dec@dec-sped.org

http://www.dec-sped.org/

 

ECO: Early Childhood Outcome Center

CB 8040

UNC Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC   27599-8040

http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~eco/index.cfm

 

The Family Village

Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison

1500 Highland Ave., Madison, WI 53705-2280

e-mail: familyvillage@waisman.wisc.edu

www.familyvillage.wisc.edu

 

National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC)

Campus Box 8040, UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040

(919)962-2001

TDD: (919)-843-3269

fax (919)966-7463

e-mail: nectac@unc.edu

www.nectac.org

 

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)

P.O. Box 1492, Washington, DC 20013

TTY: (800) 695-0285

fax: (202) 884-8441

e-mail: nichcy@aed.org

www.nichcy.org

 

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center

8161 Normandale Blvd., Minneapolis, MN 55437

(952)838-9000

TTY: (952)838-0190

fax (952)838-0199

e-mail: pacer@pacer.org

www.pacer.org

 

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20202-0498

1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327)

www.ed.gov/index.jsp