January 18, 2016

I provide district support to SLPs in a large metropolitan school district and the top two things I get asked regarding IEP goals are (1) how to phrase a certain goal, and (2) if it’s okay to use the academic standards as IEP goals.

(1) Many of you have heard of the S.M.A.R.T. goal format, which is a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. The struggle I often see is when SLPs try to match a certain activity to a goal and the “M” in S.M.A.R.T. gets blurred. Consider these tips to keep you out of the gray area and ensure your goal is measurable:

  • Focus on the observable skill you want to see from the student. What specifically are you looking at when you write down a plus or minus on your data sheet?
  • Don’t get too wordy. Goals like “Student will increase expressive language by increasing vocabulary using synonyms for curriculum words…” are too long and unnecessary.
  • Avoid mega-goals. Goals that incorporate too many skills are confusing to the reader and are too hard to collect data on. Stick to one skill, and write more than one goal if needed.

(2) Students should not have IEP goals that match their grade level academic standards. For example, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are skills a student should master by the end of the school year, so writing a goal for that standard doesn’t make sense. ASHA has an excellent FAQ page on Common Core State Standards. They state:

Speech-language goals should NOT be taken directly from the Common Core, especially those specified for the grade level at which the child is currently performing. The CCSS are general educational standards for the grade level; therefore, their use by SLPs implies that the clients/students do not require special education. IEP goals should be written to accomplish the tasks that underlie achievement of Standards.

So bottom line: Communication skills are easily linked to a variety of academic standards, but the standards themselves should not be your IEP goals.

SLP Toolkit has created a Standards Alignment document to assist you with connecting common speech-language skills to the Common Core State Standards. We hope you find it useful!


I co-created the innovative web app SLP Toolkit. We are school SLPs who are passionate about streamlining workload so time can be spent where it counts - with students: www.slptoolkit.com