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Tuesday's Tip: SMART vs. SMARTER Goals





What you don’t know will hurt you!

The SMART goal concept underestimates performance ability and did not modify interventions with research-based approaches. SMARTER Goals were noted as the most common and added the evaluation of the data collected and used that data to determine the appropriate use of research-based /proven interventions.

Compare SMART VS. SMARTER Approaches:

SMART APPROACH: Get advice for the development of generic goals created by advocates or lawyers that are not specific to your scholar's specific identified educational needs.

SMARTER APPROACH: Get advice from expertly cross-trained advocates trained in individualized goal development based on evaluations that lead to competency-based independent outcomes. Your scholar deserves an expert.

SMART APPROACH: Identify skill “mastery," but mastery is not clearly defined.

SMARTER APPROACH: Skill mastery is defined in terms that require:

  • Consistent performance

  • Fluency

  • Independence (lacks prompts)

  • Generalization demonstrating real-life functional performance.

SMART APPROACH: You can only get a Legally sufficient IEP.

SMARTER APPROACH: You get a legally sufficient IEP that is scholar-focused, individualized, and competency-based. This requires:

  • Information about areas of remediation and the specific subset of skill deficits involved that must be remediated.

    • Annual goals that are specific and measurable, meeting the scholar's academic AND functional needs

    • Annual goals that describe how the scholar's progress will be measured to prove remediation, and the closing of the educational gap.

    • Gathering of documentation so to prevent disagreements with the school district.

SMART APPROACH: Test for mastery of tasks in a classroom or related service environments.

SMARTER APPROACH: Measure mastery of sub-skills and a combination of skills involved in tasks across differing environments.

  • On the surface, a single task may appear to be measuring the same set of functional skills but may in fact require very different levels of the skills that differ in their cognitive requirements or executive functioning. Focusing on the wrong skill leads to different or inconsistent results based on the presentation of tasks across different environments. Sub-skill tasks (objectives) must be mastered before a general goal task has any predictive value of mastery.1

  • Reading has 5 different skills each with many sub-skills. One of those skills is phonological awareness that has 10 sub-skills. 7 (non-rhyming ones) were predictive of 1st grade and subsequent reading ability.1 Progression to reading mastery at higher levels and subsequent reading skills are impaired if they are missed. Focusing on the wrong skill does not improve outcomes.

  • Why would we focus on: phonics and pattern/word study, fluency, vocabulary, or comprehension when a prerequisite developmental and foundation skill of phonemic awareness for reading is missing?

  • I have seen many 16-year-old non-progressing scholars be evaluated, only to find that they have pre-school pre-reading skill deficits. No one checked to see why they were not progressing. How can you set goals in reading fluency for a student who cannot identify letters or sounds?

If the IEP team does not know the underlying splinter skill deficit and the developmental progression to mastery of a task, then they cannot write an individualized goal.

All Special Education Advocates must be cross-trained themselves to understand what progress monitoring tools are available. You have to understand the evaluation process to do that. If you understand the evaluation process, you will get more than a legally sufficient IEP. This is done through clear identification of educationally-based needs with clearly defined baselines.

Advocates should not consider what is best for the school or the teachers when analyzing a scholar’s IEP. They should focus on the scholar’s unique needs (and baselines) and how they need to be addressed through

  • Identifying all areas of need

  • Use of Specially Designed Instruction in the Least Restrictive Environment

  • Determine how to measure progress so the skill deficit is measured

  • Level of related services and supports to school personnel needed

  • Development of IEPs that are not just LEGALLY CORRECT but also EDUCATIONALLY MEANINGFUL. Taking a single-sided view will lead to disaster.


Specific Areas of Need - Academic, Developmental, and Functional Skill Sets

  • Evaluated with independent baselines - without prompts

Measurable and Meaningful Data Collection

  • Data on the actual skill that is needing remediation, not other things.

Attainable Advancement That Is Time-Bound

  • Not underestimating ability to progress

  • For example, One IEP had a scholar with a reading disorder to achieve 5 words in one year in their goal

Relevant to all 5 types of Curriculums

  • General/Core or Modified Core Curriculum

  • Expanded/Functional Curriculum

  • Extracurricular Curriculum

  • Assistive Technology Curriculum and

  • Behavioral Curriculum

Teachable via Instructional Accommodations and Strategies of SDIs and SAS

  • SAS—supplementary aids and services - specific materials, resources, aids, strategies or services to gain access to the general education curriculum

  • SDIs—Specially Designed Instruction – unique instruction or assessments needed for instruction

Evaluation of Data - Reviewed by Team with Readjustment to the IEP

  • If you don’t change the IEP you will keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results!

Research/Evidence-Based Methods Used

  • So eclectic unproven methods are not used like the Whole Language Approach to reading that was an educational fad base on theory and no research that was catastrophic to scholars and created regression.

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