Most special education teachers agree that paperwork is the most stressful and least satisfying part of the job. Writing and implementing individualized education program (IEP) goals that address every student's needs feels like conducting a band where each student is playing a different song on a different instrument. So, what if I told you there are ways to streamline your goals to save time and reduce paperwork? Would you want to learn more? Read on for some helpful tips.
1. Use a Goal Bank
Writing individualized IEP goals for every student is certainly ideal, but it's not always practical. Many teachers get stuck and waste precious time trying to create their own unique goals.
Further reading: 5 Tips for Successful 504 or IEP Meetings
That's why I like using a goal bank, which comes with goals and objectives that I can choose from. It saves time and energy, relieving the pressure to come up with my own goals. You can check out this comprehensive goal bank that I've found particularly helpful.
2. Use Your Curriculum to Generate IEP Goals
I was taught that instruction is driven by IEP goals. This is great if you have access to a variety of curricula and can teach multiple lessons at the same time, but let's be realistic. We have to work with what we have, and that usually means building goals around our existing curriculum. Knowing your curriculum and available resources makes writing goals much easier. For students using the same curriculum, it's possible to use the same general goal, but adjust the expected progress or student level depending on their abilities. You can also reuse goals from previous years.
3. Consider Common Student Needs
Whether you teach in a resource room, self-contained class, or pull-out setting, you'll rarely work with just one student at a time. Considering common student needs is not only important when planning your lessons but also when writing goals. It's OK to use similar goals for students you're working with.
In fact, not doing so will create classroom management difficulties as you try to instruct one group of students while keeping another group occupied and working. Developing common goals for students with common needs will simplify both your lesson planning and your progress monitoring.
4. Determine Your Progress Monitoring First
The only thing more difficult than needing multiple curricula to teach your students is needing multiple methods to monitor their progress. In addition to writing similar goals for students, developing a common method for monitoring the progress of goals will greatly streamline your process. Before writing a new goal, consider how you will monitor and report progress on the goal. Develop a method that can be used for multiple, if not all, students.
5. Remember Less Is More
You don't have to write an IEP goal for every need each student has. You have an entire caseload of students' needs to address. Creating too many different goals will make it impossible to meet all your students' needs.
Instead, come up with one or two achievables for each student. Remember, you're required to monitor and report on every goal you write. The more goals you write, the more paperwork you'll have. Do yourself a favor and when possible, minimize the number of goals you create.
Further reading: 6 Tips for a First-Year Special Education Teacher
Writing and implementing IEP goals is a necessary part of every special education teacher's job. But it doesn't have to be the most stressful. Planning ahead, using resources, and streamlining your goals will make the task more manageable. Spending less time on paperwork means you'll have more time to do what you do best: create lessons that engage and inspire your students.