How to Write a Stress-Free IEP - Creatively Focused

How to Write a Stress-Free IEP

It’s Wednesday night and you need to finish an Individualized Education Program (IEP) so it can go home to parents on Thursday. At the meeting, the team decided that the student would continue to have a goal in reading. Your hands are posed ready to type and you realize that this does not actually give you enough to write a goal. You use your professional judgment to determine what a natural next skill would be in the student’s reading progression based on their previous progress and the nature of their disability. Then you realize you don’t have the baseline data you need to make the goal measurable. You will need to find a data collection tool tonight, print it, and try to grab the student during advisory time tomorrow morning to get the baseline data. Then you will need to finish writing the goal and get it sent off in the afternoon. In the end, you get the IEP sent off with a sigh of relief feeling exhausted, but it is not really the end because there is still another IEP due tomorrow, and your day is far from finished.



If this sounds at all familiar, there is an easier way to write goals that ensures the skill of the goal is determined by the team and that the IEP manager does not need to scramble at the last minute! Mise en place is a French cooking phrase referring to getting all of the ingredients set up and ready to use before beginning to cook. As a person who has frequently realized at the last minute that I was missing a key ingredient, I was amazed at the difference in my experience (and the quality of the dish) when I prepped the ingredients ahead of time. It made me feel like I can actually do this and have fun with it! The same principle can be applied to IEP meetings. When we gather the data we need prior to the meeting to report on progress for previous goals AND baseline data for our proposed goals, teams can have meaningful discussions and make data-informed decisions that leave the IEP manager with the job of documenting rather than gathering data and creating.

The shift in effort from work needed AFTER the IEP meeting to work done BEFORE the IEP meeting can save you from stress in the short term and save you time in the long run. With data-based decisions made by the team, the student is less likely to need time-consuming amendments made to programming for goals that were met too soon, focused on the wrong skills, or were too ambitious. Also, progress reports are less likely to require follow-up action. 


Tips for making this shift include: 

  1. Use a detailed agenda for IEP meetings that include information to be discussed by the team.
  2. Start planning for IEP meetings a month in advance to give yourself time to make and enact a plan for data collection and to identify areas where additional information needs to be gathered prior to the meeting. 
  3. Collect data for both the current goal as well as for the skill you will propose as the new goal.



Creatively Focused offers professional development and resources that can help you make this shift successfully! 

  • axis3 is a people-powered platform that offers person-to-person support, curated resources (including IEP meeting agendas and data collection tools), and professional development (including the self-paced course Facilitating a Successful IEP Meeting) and so much more! 
  • axis3 Connect offers coaching to provide tools and support you through the process!
  • Standalone professional development such as the Writing Data-Based Reading and Math Goals Bundle can support you in collecting and analyzing the most meaningful data for your students!


Written by Kalin Schoephoerster, Instructional Designer & Licensed Special Education Teacher