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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Measurable annual goals (Sec. 300.320(a)(2))

Comment: One commenter requested clarification as to whether IEP goals must be specific to a particular discipline (e.g., physical therapy goals, occupational therapy goals). One commenter recommended that goals be explicitly defined and objectively measured. Another commenter recommended requiring IEP goals to have specific outcomes and measures on an identified assessment tool.

One commenter recommended clarifying that an IEP Team is permitted, under certain circumstances, to write goals that are intended to be achieved in less than one year.

Discussion: Section 300.320(a)(2)(i), consistent with section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(II) of the Act, requires the IEP to include measurable annual goals. Further, Sec. 300.320(a)(3)(i), consistent with section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(III) of the Act, requires the IEP to include a statement of how the child's progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured. The Act does not require goals to be written for each specific discipline or to have outcomes and measures on a specific assessment tool. Furthermore, to the extent that the commenters are requesting that we mandate that IEPs include specific content not in section 614(d)(1)(A)(i) of the Act, under section 614(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I), we cannot interpret section 614 to require that additional content. IEPs may include more than the minimum content, if the IEP Team determines the additional content is appropriate.

Changes: None.

Comment: Some commenters recommended requiring related services in every child's IEP. The commenters stated that related services are necessary to enhance the overall health and well-being of the child to prevent secondary conditions; ensure that the child progresses towards independent functioning and community integration; increase the child's ability to function and learn in his or her educational environment; develop social interaction skills to enhance a child's ability to communicate, build relationships, and reinforce other positive behavior skills; and further advance the child's ability to complete his or her own educational requirements and goals.

Discussion: To require related services for every child with a disability would be inconsistent with the concept of individualization that has been part of the Act since its inception in 1975. Related services are only required to the extent that such services are necessary to enable the child to benefit from special education. Related services, as with any other service in an IEP, are determined on an individual basis by the child's IEP Team.

Changes: None.

Comment: Many commenters opposed the removal of benchmarks and short-term objectives as required components of the IEP and recommended that States and LEAs be permitted to require benchmarks and short-term objectives for all children with disabilities. Many commenters recommended that the regulations allow the IEP Team to determine whether to include short-term objectives in a child's IEP to measure progress in functional areas that are not measurable through other means.

Discussion: Benchmarks and short-term objectives were specifically removed from section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(II) of the Act. However, because benchmarks and short-term objectives were originally intended to assist parents in monitoring their child's progress toward meeting the child's annual goals, we believe a State could, if it chose to do so, determine the extent to which short-term objectives and benchmarks would be used. However, consistent with Sec. 300.199(a)(2) and sections 608(a)(2) and 614(d)(1)(A)(ii)(I) of the Act, a State that chooses to require benchmarks or short-term objectives in IEPs in that State would have to identify in writing to the LEAs located in the State and to the Secretary that such rule, regulation, or policy is a State-imposed requirement, which is not required by Part B of the Act or the Federal regulations.

Changes: None.

Comment: A few commenters supported the requirement in Sec. 300.320(a)(2)(ii) for benchmarks or short-term objectives to be developed for children who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. However, a few commenters stated that limiting short-term objectives to children who take alternate assessments is not acceptable because the one percent limit on the percentage of children who may take alternate assessments is arbitrary.

Discussion: The requirement to develop short-term objectives or benchmarks covers all children with disabilities who are assessed using alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards, consistent with section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)(cc) of the Act. The one percent cap referred to by the commenter is not a limit on the number of children who may take an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. Rather, it is a limit on the number of proficient and advanced scores that may be included in calculating adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the ESEA, consistent with 34 CFR Sec. 200.13(c)(1)(ii). As noted previously, the requirement to include benchmarks or short-term objectives for all children with disabilities was specifically removed from section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(II) of the Act.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter stated that the IEP should not include benchmarks for alternate achievement standards because this would be teaching to the test and would lower expectations for children.

Discussion: Section 300.320(a)(2)(ii) requires benchmarks or short-term objectives only for children with disabilities who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards. By "teaching to the test," we assume that the commenter believes that a benchmark or short-term objective must be written for each alternate achievement standard. There is no such requirement in the Act or these regulations.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested clarification on how schools should determine which children in kindergarten through grade two must have short-term objectives or benchmarks in their IEPs. Another commenter requested clarification on how the requirements for benchmarks or short-term objectives apply to preschoolers.

Discussion: Section 300.320(a)(2)(ii), consistent with section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)(cc) of the Act, requires an IEP to include benchmarks or short-term objectives for children with disabilities who take an alternate assessment aligned to alternate achievement standards. This would apply to preschool children and children with disabilities in kindergarten through grade two only if these children are assessed in a State or districtwide assessment program and the State has opted to develop an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. Under title 1 of the ESEA, States are only required to assess children in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, so it is unlikely that even States that choose to develop alternate achievement standards will include this age population in a Statewide assessment program or develop an alternate achievement standard for these children.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended that the regulations require IEP Team members, including the parents, to be involved in developing short-term objectives.

Discussion: Sections 300.320 through 300.324 and section 614(d) of the Act are clear that the IEP Team, which includes the parent, is responsible for developing benchmarks or short-term objectives for children who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate achievement standards.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended clarifying that goals and objectives must be aligned with the State's alternate assessment.

Discussion: Section 612(a)(16)(C)(ii) of the Act requires alternate assessments to be aligned with the State's challenging academic content standards and academic achievement standards, and if the State has adopted alternate academic achievement standards permitted under 34 CFR Sec. 200.1(d), to measure the achievement of children with disabilities against those standards. Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(II) of the Act requires the IEP to include a statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to meet the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum. However, there is nothing in the Act that requires a child's IEP goals to be aligned with the State's alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. Additionally, for some children, goals may be needed for activities that are not closely related to a State's academic content and academic achievement standards.

Changes: None.

Comment: A few commenters stated that the regulations should be more specific about what must be included in an IEP goal if benchmarks or short-term objectives are not required in every child's IEP.

Discussion: The regulations are clear on the requirements for IEP goals. Section 300.320(a)(2)(i), consistent with section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(II) of the Act, requires that annual IEP goals be measurable and designed to meet the child's needs that result from the child's disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum, and to meet each of the child's other educational needs that result from the child's disability. We believe that these requirements will ensure that progress toward achieving a child's annual goals can be objectively monitored and measured. We do not believe that additional specificity is needed.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter suggested requiring SEAs to ensure that LEAs receive professional development in writing measurable goals and effective methods of measuring progress toward achieving those goals.

Discussion: We do not believe that the requested requirement should be included in the regulations. State and local officials are in the best position to determine the training and professional development needs of their personnel.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter recommended retaining current Sec. 300.350, regarding the responsibilities of the public agency to provide special education and related services to a child with a disability in accordance with the child's IEP and to make a good-faith effort to assist the child to achieve the goals and objectives or benchmarks in the IEP.

Discussion: The requirement in current Sec. 300.350(a)(1), regarding a public agency's responsibility to provide special education and related services to a child with a disability in accordance with the child's IEP, is unnecessary, because entitlement to FAPE under the Act includes the provision of special education and related services in accordance with an IEP. Paragraphs (a)(2) and (b) in current Sec. 300.350, regarding accountability for a child achieving his or her goals, are unnecessary because other Federal laws, such as title I of the ESEA, already provide sufficient motivation for agency effort to assist children with disabilities in making academic progress. Current Sec. 300.350(c), regarding the rights of parents to invoke due process procedures if a parent feels that efforts are not being made to achieve the IEP goals, is unnecessary because it merely provides explanatory information regarding the due process procedures for parents and children that are available in Sec. Sec. 300.500 through 520.

Changes: None.