SMART IEPs (Step 1): Start with Baseline Information on Your Child
By: Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright
A SMART IEP is an individualized education program that is: specific, measurable, filled with action words, realistic and relevant, and time-limited.
IDEA 2004 requires your child's IEP to include:
- a statement of the child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general education curriculum...[and]
- a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and . . . meet each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability. (See Chapter 17: Section 1414 about IEPs)
Analyze your child's present levels of performance
The present levels of performance describe "areas of need arising from the child's disability." The present levels of performance tell you what the child knows and is able to do.
How can you make your child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance measurable? Here are some suggestions:
- You can specify performance at a grade or age level on objective tests
- You can indicate a rate (i.e., 3 out of 4 times, 5 minutes out of every 10 minutes)
Here are some things you need to consider when thinking about your child's IEPs:
- What is the relationship between the goal and the purpose of IDEA 2004, which is to prepare your child for further education, employment and independent living?
- What are your child's areas of need?
- How do these areas of need relate to your child's disability?
- How do these areas of need affect your child's progress in the general education curriculum?
- What does your child need to know or be able to do as a result of the IEP?
- What is it about the child's disability that is interfering with achieving this knowledge or skill?
- What is the measurable starting point for this knowledge or skill?
- How will you know if your child is learning this knowledge or skill?
- What will you see your child doing when s/he reaches this goal?
- What effect will reaching this goal have on your child's learning gaps as compared to his/her peers?
- How can this knowledge or skill be measured?
When you look at the test data from standardized testing and evaluations on your child, this will provide information about what your child knows and is able to do.
Here are some questions to help you identify your child's present levels of academic achievement:
- What is your child's level of academic achievement in reading, writing, spelling, and arithmetic?
- Can your child read the textbooks assigned to general education students in her grade?
- Are your child's reading skills two or three years below grade level on an individual educational achievement test of reading?
- Can your child read the grade level textbooks in core academic subjects?
- Assume your child is in the tenth grade. Let's look at her functional performance in different areas
- Can she read a job application? Can she complete the job application without assistance?
- Can she read the driver training manual? Can she pass the driving test without assistance?
- Can she read a map? A bus schedule? Can she balance a checkbook?
- Can she use the Internet to do research?
Developing the IEP
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 describes how IEPs should be developed. The IEP team shall consider:
- the child's strengths
- the parents' concerns for enhancing their child's education
- the results of the initial evaluation or most recent evaluation of the child
- the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the child
Use Baseline Data for Present Levels of Performance The term "performance" describes what the child can do. What are your child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance? What do your child's standard scores, percentile rank, grade equivalent and age equivalent scores mean?
Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance include data from objective tests, including "criterion-referenced tests, standard achievement tests, diagnostic tests, or any combination of the above."
If your child has reading problems, the baseline data for the present levels of academic achievement should include scores from educational achievement tests of reading. If your child has math problems, the present levels should include scores from achievement tests of math.
The purpose of using assessments is to determine the child's present levels of educational performance and areas of need arising from the child's disability so that approaches for ensuring the child's involvement and progress in the general curriculum and any needed adaptations or modifications to that curriculum can be identified.
Used with permission from Wrightslaw. Wright, P. and Wright, P. (2006). Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition. Hartfield, VA: Harbor House Law Press, Inc. Excerpted from Chapter 12, retrieved from http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/feta2/feta2.htm.