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Why Should I Keep an IEP Goal Bank and How Can I Use It in a Helpful Way?

At a Glance

In this post, we cover the ways that using an IEP goal bank can be helpful.

We list and describe the benefits of IEP goal banks as you write IEP goals.

There are also suggested and recommended adjustments to ensure you are meeting the individualized needs of your students and following district protocol.

Writing individualized education plans for students who need them can be a daunting task. Not only does it require finding individualized goals for each student, but teacher caseloads can also vary widely based on their school or even their class.


Which is why we are all universally thankful for IEP goal banks, right?


Right?!?


Well, unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case, and not without good reason. Many special education graduate programs and teachers look down on IEP goal banks, rightly noting that an overwhelmed teacher could resort to copying and pasting and fail to deliver the individualized goals that their student needs.


While we don’t want to minimize the negative consequences of a copy and paste approach, we also want to rescue the humble IEP goal bank from this negative designation. 


Because in the hands of a thoughtful teacher or professional, an IEP goal bank can be a genuinely valuable tool and that enhances our ability to consider all the possibilities for a student’s education.

So before we get into ways goal banks can be helpful, let’s jump into a few things they should NOT be:


1. Copy and pasted verbatim or treated as a one-size-fits-all solution.


2. The only acceptable goals to use for a student (creating your own goals is still great).


3. A fundamental standard by which new potential IEP goals are judged.

There are a few reasons why approaching IEP goal banks in those ways aren’t helpful. Apart from the obvious that we want to individualize for each of our students, each district is going to have different specifications around goals whether that’s a quantitative approach, SMART goals methods, or organizing goals in a specific way. 


As such, even if you identify a goal in the goal bank that sounds like a perfect match for a given student, it still helps to determine whether you need to adjust your language.
But if we know what not to use them for, then what are their benefits? 


Let’s start with how it helps us find new starting points:

1. Get ideas!

This one may feel simple on the surface but we cannot understate its value. When we seek out resources like idea banks, it’s often because we don’t feel sure where to start with a given student. For many of us, finding a starting point is all the inspiration we need to run with it and start tailoring to our student’s interests.


Alternately, maybe you have a goal in mind for a certain category but the way you’re writing it just seems off. A goal bank covering goals in a similar category can help you parse out some different wordings to see if you can find your way to one that better reflects the student you are working with.

2. Find some commonalities between programs.

While there is a very real downside when people copy and paste IEP goals, one real upside when institutions share similar language for similar goals is that it makes it easier to discern what a student’s past teachers may have intended going forward. 


When you get a new student or begin working at a new institution, goal banks can help establish a common working language that should never take priority over an individual student’s needs but can help with communication between professionals who are accustomed to using slightly different frameworks.

3. Discover something new!

While we have gone on at length about how great goal banks can be for generating ideas, they can also be amazing tools for discovering specific things within various ideas that you can directly employ in your classroom. 


Whether it’s a way of measuring student success that you hadn’t considered, a new accommodation that you weren’t aware of, or a way to offer support that you didn’t realize was so important, the knowledge that can go into a goal bank can teach you all sorts of things about how to successfully work toward IEP goals, and not just ideas for the goals themselves.

Conclusion

We hope this post has helped reframe some of the thinking around IEP goal banks and clarified the ways they can be useful to professionals and have a genuinely positive impact on the outcome of students who have IEP plans. 


If you have some of your own experience with IEP goal banks you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you at hello@autismgrownup.com


Otherwise, we’ll see you next time and we wish you the best of luck on finding the perfect goals for your students!

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