Data is the heart of the IEP process. All of the goals and services your child receives are supported by data, which is why it is so critical that parents understand their right to view the data. Special education advocate and owner of Know IEPs Dr. Sarah Pelangka gives us the lowdown on progress tracking and why collecting and monitoring data is so important.

Legally, every child is entitled to, at minimum, one IEP meeting per year and a full assessment every three years. The purpose of the annual meeting is to review progress on the previous year’s goals, as well as to develop new goals based on the current needs of the student. Given that there is no formal annual assessment, the needs of the student are determined by whether or not that student met the previous year’s goals, as well as additional insight from the team (including you, the parent).

Baselines and Hard Data

The team will review progress on previous goals, and will note whether the goal was met, partially met, or not met. In addition to these statements, ensure that you request the actual data point. All IEP goals are measured by number data — this means that there should be a number or some form of quantitative data to support these statements. The district cannot simply say the goal was “met” or “not met”: they need to have hard data. If there is no number attached to that goal, request it and be certain to request the data that was collected to track that goal.

The only way a goal can be marked as “partially met” is if there was improvement from the baseline. Make sure you have the previous year’s IEP with you so you can reference the baselines.

Present Levels

It’s very important to make sure your child’s present levels of performance (PLOP) page is detailed and precise. Present levels show needs, and needs drive goals and accommodations, which drive services. Collectively, this information is used to determine placement. Without clear, accurate, and detailed present levels, the entire IEP will not accurately reflect your child’s strengths and needs.

Academic Sections

It is critical that all areas within the academic sections are reported out and are accurate. If you have input, share it and make sure it is added. Compare the previous year or two to this year’s baselines to determine whether progress has been made. If not, question that: Why is your child’s progress stagnant? We’ve put together a Yearly Progress Chart to make it easier for you to compare baselines (with helpful examples, too!).

Adjusting Unmet Goals

Most importantly, understand that a goal cannot (and should not) directly transfer over to the next year’s IEP. This is to your benefit, as there is a reason your child didn’t meet that goal — something in the environment was missing. Although the skill may still need to be supported, something about the goal needs to change.

For example, let’s say a student had the following goal:

Given a visual aid for focus, Rahim will remain engaged in small group activities for 15 consecutive minutes in 80% of opportunities per day, over 5 consecutive days.

If the goal was not met, the district cannot simply continue this goal as is or merely change the percentage (for example, to 70%). It’s possible that Rahim didn’t meet this goal because he needs more than a visual aid to be engaged. The goal needs to include whatever supports he may need, or we need to change the goal to better meet the need. If Rahim is overstimulated, the goal should focus on ways Rahim can implement sensory strategies to maintain engagement during small group instruction. Whatever the case, a discussion should be had. Do not let the district dictate that discussion and gloss over why the goal was not met.


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