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S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps® IEP Goal Development

August 25, 2017Kelly Ott


SMARTER Steps IEP Goal Development:  The SMARTER method for IEP goal development was developed by Kelly Ott and Lara Wakefield and published in 2016. The SMART acronym was first coined by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham in 1981.  The November 1981 issue of Management Review included an article titled, "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives.  Since then many industries have implemented its use as a means to motivate employees, set business goals, and develop comprehensive quality improvement plans. This method has been used by businesses, educational institutions, medical facilities, therapy groups etc. as a way to set goals and track progress.

In education, we can use this method to help develop individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. There are many benefits in using this systematic approach to goal development. A recent article in Edutopia points out the benefits as well as describes the process.

At SMARTER Steps, LLC, we have found that this process can assist educators, parents and students in understanding the essential components related to writing effective educational goals. Further research, however, into educational goal writing for student with disabilities, we discovered there are 13 federal mandates that must be included into each IEP goal. We thought that the SMART acronym was a great tool and saw that it was utilized successfully in other industries. Unfortunately, it did not cover all 13 mandates that educators are legally required to include in educational goals for students with disabilities. So, we re-worked the acronym to include these.

S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Steps expanded this resource into the “SMARTER” acronym to include all 13 federal mandates. This method is helping educators write specific goals that are easily measured and tracked over time. It improves the home to school communication network and demonstrates that educators are using effective evidence-based instructional practices to improve student skills.  Since all goals are linked to curriculum or state standards, there is a clear connection to the academic relevance. Check out our free guide to learn more and get started using this systematic method of creating legally compliant IEP goals.