True Confessions: The Truth about Standards-Based Goals

The term standards-based goal does not actually mean what everybody thinks it means. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the Mid-State Region. So, I wanted to take some time to state the facts and myth bust.

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Fact: A student with a disability’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must contain measurable annual goals. A measurable annual is a skill-based goal. The skill should be directly aligned with the student’s needs, as identified in the student’s present levels of performance.Fact: You can have both academic and functional based goals. If the student has an academic skill deficit, then there would be academic goals. There can be functional goals (organizational, study skills, daily living skills) if there are identified functional needs in the present levels of performance.

Myth: Measurable annual goals are based on the curriculum. No, measurable annual goals answer the question, “What skills does the student require to master the content of the curriculum?”   They do not answer, “What curriculum content does the student need to master?” The curriculum is a given, as all student with disabilities are general education students first and foremost.

Fact: Measurable annual goals are based on skills that can be assessed and measured all year round. If goals were written based on the curriculum, we would see statements such as “have not yet started this goal; will begin next quarter.” The IEP is in effect for a year, therefore the goals should be written with the anticipation the student will achieve the goal by the end of the year. The student will need the year to make progress.

Fact: A student’s IEP should be aligned to the grade-level standards. This is being known as a standards-based IEP. In 2014, the New York State Education Department released a memo titled, “Role of the Committee on Special Education in Related to the Common Core Learning Standards.” SED conveyed the message that a student with a disability’s IEP should be aligned with the grade level standards that all students are working towards achieving. It goes back to the concept that all students are general education students first and foremost. Therefore, the IEP should identify the essential skills and knowledge that the grade level standards ask the student to perform. In essence, in a given grade-level content area, what does the student need to know and be able to do? The IEP would then state where that student is currently performing in a given need area. This is what is called a gap analysis; the comparison between grade level expectations and current ability level (in an area of need). Once the gap is clear, the CSE can then determine what supports to put into place so that child can access and make progress in the general education curriculum. The CSE will also be able to identify the true skill needs of the child as we now know the priority skills for a given grade level.

Myth: The IEP must include goals that are standards. Be careful with this statement. A standards-based goal is not a standard written as a goal. It is not a measurable annual goal citing or referencing the standard. According to the SED memo listed above, “standards-based IEP goals are not simply restatements of the standards; rather, standards-based annual goals identify the essential skills and knowledge that a student with a disability needs to acquire in order to master grade-level content standards.”

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Fact: Standards-based goals are skill-based goals that are aligned to the standards. The skill identified in the goal is a priority skill for that individual child to access and progress in the general education curriculum. Working on this type of goal will help that child bridge the “gap.”

Fact: Recommendation is no more than 3-5 measurable annual goals on an IEP. There are numerous standards for a given grade-level. If you turned all the standards into goals, the student would end up with 20+ goals. 3-5 goals are a reasonable number of goals for a child to achieve in a year. Key word “achieve.” Goals should be achieved; not removed or the same from year to year.

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Look for the Helpers

Recently, the idea of trauma sensitivity in schools has been a subject of interest in the Mid-State region. It seems timely, amid the constant state of uncertainty in our nation and in our world, to stop and think about the impact of stress, anxiety, and traumatic experience upon our students. We often see this impact in our schools. When exposed to adverse experiences, children often react with maladaptive behaviors for lack of a better strategy, to cope with feelings such as anger, fear and worry. Although we are not all trained in trauma intervention, we can strive to maintain sensitivity to those around us concerning the potential impact of adverse experiences. We can also, as nurturing and responsive professionals, begin to build up our repertoire of responses to our youngest learners when they experience fear, anxiety and sadness. Continue reading

Why are We Still Suspending Students?

Despite a lack of evidence that suspension from school has a positive impact on improving behavior, many schools continue to routinely use suspension as an exclusionary punishment. Additionally, current research widely supports the notion that students who are suspended from school are actually impacted negatively. Specifically, suspension often results in students’ continued misbehavior, as well as increasing the likelihood that they will repeat a grade or drop out of school.

And many even become involved in crime. It seems obvious that a call for change is on our doorsteps.

Altering the Pathway that Leads to “Suspension Likely” Behavior

So, when talking about suspension, we can’t just parachute in and land in the middle of a suspension without first examining the pathway that led to that suspension in the first place. Is it possible that by changing our reactions as educators to student behavior that we could actually alter the course of the student’s behavior so that the problem is resolved Continue reading

Will the Real “I” Please Stand Up? Clarifying the “I” in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Often times, our students have little to no knowledge of the content of their IEP, why they have an IEP, or the fact that the IEP is all about them! As educators, it is our duty to encourage students to become more involved in their programs, services, and accommodations. This in turn provides experiences that help enable them to transition into the role of the successful adult.

According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), “Self-determination skills are one of the most critical contributing factors to the successful transition of youth and young adults with disabilities. Youth need self-determination skills in order to have control over their lives and to be empowered to make informed decisions and actions in all aspects of their lives.” Continue reading

Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 1)

Special educators sometimes find themselves working with many different service providers.  On any given day, they can be asked to communicate with a number of general education teachers, other special educators, and various therapists.  As a special educator you may be working together with reading and math specialists and interventionists, school social workers and counselors, teacher assistants (TAs) and aides.  These people can be some of the most valuable human resource assets your school possesses. However, it can become very overwhelming to have so many people in and out of your classroom; or to make sure your student with special needs is getting everything, from everyone, that they are supposed to in order for them to meet with success.

Sometimes the people that work closest with the students with disabilities are our paraprofessionals–teacher aides or assistants.  They are often assigned to work 1:1 with a student or with very small groups of kids.  Some will work with many of the same students over the years and really come to know their strengths and needs, their character and personalities.  Utilized well, a TA or an aide can help a teacher to really address the needs of their students better and may assist with creating a more inclusive setting. Continue reading

That’s a Wrap!!

As we wrap up the old year and get ready for the new let’s take a moment to reflect on a few of the insights from our special education bloggers this past year.

Payette_Janel_150pxJanel Payette,

Playing Games or Building Skills?

Does your school currently have small groups set up for students who are in need of intervention to work on certain behavior skills, such as, social skills or conflict resolution skills? These groups are one step above Tier 1 universal supports and we often call this Tier II intervention “Social Academic Instructional Groups”, otherwise known as SAIG. As a classroom teacher, have you ever wondered what students actually do within those groups? For many, it is often a “big mystery” as to what is being discussed within groups and how it is making a difference in the student’s everyday behavior within the classroom. Continue reading