How SMART IEPs help students achieve

IEP_blog2What is a SMART IEP you may ask?

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) that is SMART is Specific, Measurable, uses Action words, Realistic and Relevant and Time sensitive.

To develop a SMART IEP, the school team, which includes parents, needs to examine the relevant data that we have compiled about the student’s strengths, skills, needs and next steps for instruction. Data such as previous report cards, Strengths and Needs Committee (SNC) meeting records, reading and math assessments, professional reports (such as medical assessments, psycho-educational reports, speech and language reports, etc.), functional behaviour assessment, and/or other sources of information that contribute to building the student’s learner profile. Parental input is very valuable in the development process.

I become very excited when I see the use of good data to inform the creation of accommodations, goals, learning expectations and teaching strategies in an IEP. I have been known to clap and cheer when this happens.

In the past month, I have been supporting classroom and special education teachers in the creation of IEPs. The discussions that are had when relevant data is brought to the table are engaging, meaningful and constructive. Here is an example of a process I was honoured to be a part of:

The student is in the junior grades and spends most of her day in the Learning Centre. Here she receives Special Education Resource Teacher and Educational Assistant support due to her varied learning and behavioural needs, which are impacted by her medical needs and developmental delay. As the school team, including the parent, began the process of updating her IEP this year, questions arose as to what the student needs to learn in order to be successful now and in her future and also how she learns best.

Here is where I entered as support. I worked with the school team to assess the student’s current abilities while making observations on how she learns. We integrated into her current program tasks she was familiar with (tasks she has already mastered), as well as introduced tasks and concepts that were new. We quickly found that our teaching method was integral to her success. If we helped the student too early in the learning process, then she became disengaged from the task and expected us to complete the work. If we used a method using lesser prompts such as modelling, then she was able to follow our model and work on the task, even cue us when she needed to be shown again. We also were able to observe what skills the student had retained over the summer and determine our next steps for teaching. All of this information was summarized to the parent in a SNC meeting and then translated onto the IEP.

The result? An IEP that is individualized (i.e. specific to the student), measurable (i.e. we are going to assess through the use of prompts), uses action words (i.e. defined what skills the student is to work on) realistic and relevant, and time sensitive (i.e. we only wrote goals for Term 1) – it is truly a SMART IEP!

For more information about IEPs, please check out the following resources:

SCDSB website resources:

IEP information for parents:

SMART IEP Brochure:

Ministry of Educations IEP Guide 2004:

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