What are SMART goals and why are they important for students?
The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific relates to the student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) and indicates exactly what the student needs to do. Measurable means that progress is objectively determined at frequent data points. It is important that goals are measurable and that we can take good data on those goals. Achievable refers to goals being realistic and related to students' most critical needs. In a calendar year of the annual IEP, goals need to be achievable before the next review. Goals need to be relevant, keeping in mind the standards required of the student. Goals need to be time-bound. There needs to be a clearly defined beginning and end date. Below are some additional details about the components of a SMART goal.
- Specific - Goals need to be specific so that the team and the student know exactly what they will be working on. In order to do that, they need to be well-defined with a clear outcome. Adequate detail should be provided in terms of what the expectation is for the student.
- Measurable - The goal must include some type of measurement. Is it a percentage or so many times out of a total number of trials? There are many different ways to measure a goal or objective. There is no set way and is largely dependent on how the goal is written.
- Achievable - An achievable goal would contain, for example, “within 36 weeks” or “within 12 months.” Specify the timeline that the student has to achieve that goal and objective. Oftentimes, a long-term goal is for a 12-month period. Then short-term goals and objectives (i.e., benchmarks) have varying degrees of length. For example, we may start out with a short-term goal that we think the student can achieve in 12 weeks, and one that they may be able to achieve in 20 weeks, etc. until that 12-month period is reached when the long-term goal ends.
- Relevant - The goal must be educationally relevant in the school setting.
- Time-bound - Goals are time-bound based on the terms of the IEP.
SMART goals state the desired future achievement for the student. What does the student need in order to be successful in the second grade, the third grade, or the 12th grade? SMART goals assist in focusing on what a student's primary needs are. They help define exactly what the student’s future achievement looks like and how to measure it. If this process is followed, then we are writing outstanding goals and objectives for our students.
Please refer to the SpeechPathology.com course, Back to Basics: Goal Writing for School-based SLPs, for more information on writing well-crafted goals in order to meet expectations.