Time to Get Smart


Whether your child has an IEP or a 504, you have goals you want them to achieve at school. While 504 plans don’t have specific goals, IEP plans do. But not all goals are created equal. Your child will go further and achieve more if their goals are strong from the beginning. That’s where SMART goals come in.


It’s often easy to think big picture about goals. “I want her to be a stronger reader.” “I want him to communicate more easily with friends.” “I want her to be good at word problems in math.”


The thing is, none of those goals on their own are SMART. If a goal meets 5 important criteria, then it’s a SMART goal.



S – Specific: When working on specific goals, it’s much easier to focus lessons and activities – and much easier to see progress, too.

M – Measurable: If you can’t measure it, how will you know if it was met?

A – Based on Action Words: Goals should focus on what a child will do, not a general skill or trait you want them to build.

R – Relevant and Realistic: Goals should be challenging, but not impossible. No one wins if a goal is too difficult or not important to a child’s development.

T – Time Bound: When you know when a goal should be met, you can work backwards to create benchmarks or intermediate goals along the way. This increased urgency and helps everyone focus on the goal.


See below for more examples.


Criterion Description Good Example Bad Example



The goal will focus on one unique skill or ability.


Maggie will be able to complete 2-digit multiplication problems … Maggie will improve math skills …
M Measurable


The goal has precise language that describes WHAT level shows mastery and under what CONDITIONS.


… with 80% mastery when given 20 grade level problems to solve on her own on paper. … by the end of the year.

based on Action Words

The goal is based on actions that will SHOW what the child can do, more than describing a general ability.


William will participate in conversations with peers with at least 3 back and forth exchanges… William will improve social skills…

Relevant and Realistic

The goal is reasonable and likely to be achieved in the given time frame. It is also significant for your child’s development.


When given a grade level text of 100 words or more, Keyonna will read a passage out loud with less than 3 errors. Keyonna will grow three grade levels in reading by May.

Time Bound


The goal is broken down in to smaller goals called “objectives.” They describe how progress will be shown throughout the year. After 9 weeks, Jasmine will reduce verbal outbursts to less than 2 a week.


After 18 weeks, Jasmine will reduce verbal outbursts to less than 1 a week.


(And so on )

By using cool down strategies, Jasmine will reduce verbal outbursts to less that 2 a month.


(Present levels: more than 2 a week)


If a goal doesn’t meet one of these criteria, it’s really easy for it to fall to the wayside. Goals that are not SMART are easy to “talk around” without actually showing that they were met.


Writing SMART goals doesn’t come naturally. Parents and teachers need to work together on this. Use our Goal Planner to begin the process, and follow up with the teachers to make great goals for your child.




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