Developing a thorough and accurate IEP is like preparing for a trip.  You wouldn’t pack a bag until you knew where you were going.  Similarly, it only makes sense to develop the IEP once you have an idea about where the student is headed post high school.  In both cases, the destination requires well thought out and executed steps in order secure successful outcomes.

In this series, we will look at developing Measurable Postsecondary Goals (MPSGs) in the IEP. The MPSGs actually drive the document. They not only describe what the student’s future life will look like, but they also set the stage for transition planning which is reflected in other areas of the IEP. In this blog, we will look at the purpose of the MPSGs and how they inform the IEP.  In future blogs, we will explore each MPSG – Education/Training, Employment and Independent Living Skills. Additional areas to be addressed include MPSGs for Students who are Eligible for NYS Alternate Assessment, as well Using Transition Assessments to Develop Goals.

In New York State, MPSGs must be included on the IEP the year the student turns 15.  There are three areas which must be considered and updated at least annually:  Education/Training, Employment and Independent Living Skills, as appropriate.  Well-crafted MPSGs are observable, measurable and are  expressed in the future tense, since they portend the student’s adult life. There are several things that must be considered to develop quality goals.

First, student input is essential.  The goals should align directly with the student’s expressed strengths, interests, preferences and needs, which are identified in the Present Levels of Performance (PLPs) section of the IEP. In the PLPs, for example, it may be noted that a student excels in his Physical Education class.  He enjoys physical activity and he is on the school’s track and field team.  MPSGs that align with this information could include attending college to study sports management.

Second, goals should be carefully written in ways that describe them as observable, measurable and occurring post high school.  A common mistake made when writing a goal, is to describe what the student will do during the school year to help establish his post school plans. Here’s an example: Sean will explore college options.  In this case, the language is not measurable. (How does one measure explore?) An additional problem is that the statement does not reflect Sean’s life post high school.  (Presumably he will explore college options before he graduates.)  So the well written goal should be expressed in terms of Sean attending college as opposed to exploring options.

Goals should be specific and should answer why a particular selection makes sense.  Consider this well-developed Education/Training goal: Sean will attend a four-college.  He is on the track and field team and has a 4.0 average in Physical Education.  He is interested in studying sports management.  The goal is stated in a way that is measurable and observable.  Sean is both an athlete and he is doing well in Physical Education.  That information aligns with his interest in sports management.

Third, MPSGs should be realistic – meaning it is reasonable to expect that students can achieve their goals either with or without supports.  But who establishes what is realistic and which supports may be necessary?  This is at the core of transition planning. The information needed to answer these questions cannot be determined by one person at one particular time.  The answers become evident over years which is why transition planning occurs throughout high school and it involves input from many – students, families, teachers, school counselors, related service providers, community partners and more.

Another key transition planning component that is required to develop realistic goals is assessing the student in the MPSG areas.  NYS regulations stipulate that the goals are based upon age appropriate transition assessments relating to training, education, employment and where, appropriate independent living skills. (Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Part 200, 200.4(d)(2)(ix))

In other words, assessment results can be used to both identify goals as well as to validate them.  Decisions about which assessments to administer may be left up to the district or appropriate school personnel. The names of the assessments, whether formal or informal, should be included in the IEP.

MPSGs include student input and they reflect strengths, interests, preferences and needs. Transition assessments are used to help identify and support goals.  MPSGs may change as students discover more about themselves. To learn more about developing MPGS, check out:  The Guide to Quality IEP Development and Implementation, pp. 26-29 at:  http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/iepguidance/IEPguideDec2010.pdf