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8 ways to track IEP goals for your students

Illustration by Courtnay Hough

IEP goals seem like they shouldn’t be a problem to track. After all there are an average of 4 per student. That’s not so bad on paper. Do-able even. My caseloads, when I taught, tended to be 30 on average. 4 goals times 30 students, makes an average of 120 goals to track and report on. 

On top of that, I didn’t have direct visual lock on all my students at all times. They were in other classes for much of the day. This made things like social and emotional goals pretty hard to track

Taken together: nightmare fuel. 

It doesn’t have to be that way! Here are 8 ways you can easily track IEP goals on a regular basis. You can ensure that progress reports and writing new annual IEPs will be a snap! 

1. Have a progress monitoring day!

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During the first few weeks of school you will likely take a day or so to do some baseline testing. This will help you to know your students skill levels.

Keep that momentum throughout the year, and make this a routine. 

Schedule a day (or two) to give quick assessments or assignments to assess your students’ progress toward their IEP goals. Monthly is a good frequency for that because it will give you a good amount of data points. Too much more than that and you look at testing fatigue. Too little and it’s hard to tell if one test was a fluke.   

Share with your students how they are doing towards their goal. Students love to feel like they are improving and making gains. It also helps them to understand what is being discussed when they attend their IEP meetings. They know where the information you present is coming from and how it was collected. 

It helps make the whole thing seem less like magic and more like something they have control over. 

2. Write IEP goals that are measurable already in your class.

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When you are writing goals for a class you teach (or otherwise have some control over) think carefully.  You can make your life SO much simpler by looking at what you do and matching the goals you write to the tasks you do. 

Examples: 

  • Do a weekly writing assignment? Write their writing goal so you can measure their progress through that assignment
  • Every Friday do you do a team builder? What a wonderful time to track a goal on social skills when working in a team, have that clip board ready. 
  • Do you give a couple of reading comprehension question at the start of each class when you’re reading a novel? Why not use those as your comprehension measurement for a goal?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all goals much be tracked by some sort of assessment. Remember though, that these are trials. They can be formal or informally assessed and tracked. 

Just think about the skill you want them to have. Then, think of how your class helps them get that skill and write your goal accordingly. 

3. Share your data with other case managers.

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If you teach students with disabilities, you will very likely work with another special education teachers. Rarely do students just have that one special education class. They tend to qualify in reading and writing, but perhaps you only teach writing. 

This means you will have a bind spot in that student’s reading class. Their reading teacher will have a blind spot in their student’s writing skills. 

What can be done about this impossible situation? A trade of course. 

Giving your data to the other teacher creates a good balance of a relationship. Even though this can be more work in the beginning for you. Once given, you can feel comfortable asking them for data in return. 

For example, I would share data on English students. They were in my self-contained special education English class. I gave this data to the special education math teacher. In return, he would provide me with helpful progress monitoring data on my students in his class. 

You may find that you are constantly sharing, and not getting anything back in return. When that happens it is completely healthy to establish a boundary for yourself. Stop sharing, so you don’t get sucked dry.

4. Have your students create portfolios

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You know who has access to almost everything that your student does during the school day? Your student. 

This makes them uniquely qualified to collect artifacts of their learning. You can easily convert these into IEP tracking data points. 

Having the actual test that they completed in math not only shows you the number of correct they got. It may show you the work they did and where they are struggling.

It helps to have students from your caseload in a class you teach. However, it could be done with a teacher they have that you have a good rapport with. 

Simply provide the student with a folder or binder to place the work into. They should also have a description of what goes in the binder. An example would be “finished essays that have gone through the writing process”. This will keep them from putting in any writing work they complete at al, some of which isn’t relevant to their goal. 

Tell students that this is not just to show their best work, but how they think and how they improve over time. If you build time into the month or week to place items in it, then you are more likely to get buy-in on it. You could even build in reflections and sharing opportunities. This can allow for students to reflect on their own process. 

It’s a wealth of data on their skills for you and a chance at introspection for them, so a win-win.

At the end of the year they are a lovely artifact for the student to take home. You also have an even lovelier gift to the next teacher that works with them. 

5. Use one of our handy data tracking sheets! 🙂

Photography by Adam E. Hunt

Getting information from other team members can be a huge pain. To help you get quality information from team members, we designed an IEP input form. Since it is simple, people actually fill out.

Check boxes are easier than narrative boxes. They allow teachers to complete them faster.

I also noticed that people would give very unhelpful feedback like “she’s good in class”. I found that funneling their thinking helped. The form asks what accommodations they use. It also asks how they do on academic tasks verses behavior. Asking the questions I wanted answered helped me get better feedback. 

For behavior goals that are part of a behavior plan, making a plan with the students is a good strategy. When we meet every 6 weeks to track that progress, a new plan is needed. Our behavior plan form works well to craft behavior goals the whole team knows how to track.

You can get both of them here.

6. Create a google folder or other digital repository for files

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Things are getting increasingly digital at schools. Even if the aging tech has trouble keeping up, they are being integrated more than ever. Many of the things your students do in class may be done online or with access to google. 

If your school allows for it, create a google folder for each of your students. Teaching them how to use it can be hugely valuable. 

Like the portfolio, you should be clear about what goes in there. Students can upload a variety of documents. They can upload anything from pictures of their work, to word documents to videos they might make. 

The lovely thing is that everything is time-stamped and secure. If you only allow that student to share with you, no other students will be able to access the folder.

The extra nice thing about google is that you can leave comments. You can either leave them for the student or for future, or yourself. 

If your school doesn’t support google drive, consider a drop box, or get creative. Perhaps use a site like Padlet and give each student their own board address to share things to.  

7. Recruit paraprofessionals, parent volunteers and teachers to collect

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It may feel like you’re all by yourself as a special education teacher. In some smaller schools, you may in fact be the only one of your kind. Yet, you are always part of a team. 

Think about how and when you want to assess and track certain types of goals and who best to collect that data. It may not always be you. 

Perhaps a paraprofessional could track a social or behavior goal once a month? This could be as easy as handing them a clipboard while they work with students.

Maybe that helpful parent volunteer in your room would like to sit with your students and hear them read? 

You aren’t compromising their privacy or education by having someone else track them for you.  You’d have to explicitly say “you’re reading with that student because they have a disability. Let me tell you all about it…”. 

It’s ok and expected to work with the IEP team. Use any resources you can provide your students with the care they need to be successful.

It’s ok. Let go a little. Even Superman has the Justice League.

8. Track behavior goals with a (google) survey

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Some goals are much harder to track than others. I once had to track a student’s use of a back brace for their PT goal (see, teamwork). 

The way it was tracked was as easy as could be. Weekly, I got a google survey with one question: did you see the brace used this week? 

Over time, this became a wealth of information on this student’s behavior around use of this item. 

It would work for most any yes/no goal tracking (when you’re hoping to extinguish or begin a behavior especially). It could be feasibly used for most any observation based goal. 

I preferred to send google surveys because it collected the data passively. It stored it for when I needed. All I had to remember was who to send it to and how often. 

Teachers in general Ed classes liked that it was quick and simple, so they were more likely to complete it.

You could easily make this on paper. Put them in teacher mailboxes and then file them away for when you’re ready to review progress. 

Surveys are a great simple format that makes data collection easy for the whole team.

You got this!

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Collecting data on how your students are doing can be overwhelming. Hopefully you found a few ideas helpful. A good system is going to look different for everyone. It may even look different hour to hour for you, but it’s completely do-able.

You got this!

2 Responses

  1. Courtnay, I can’t tell you how helpful this all is. I just started as a SpEd teacher in November of last year, and I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, having been thrown in the deep end after teaching ELA for 13 years and suddenly switching. This article has made me feel less overwhelmed and scared, and far more in control. Thank you so much!

    1. We’re so glad it’s helpful! That was our goal when we started this. Making a change in what you’re teaching (especially to a department like special education) is hugely stressful! We hope you’re taking good care of yourself and being patient with yourself through this transition. Thank you for taking the time to leave such thoughtful feedback ❤️

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