Stack of binders with red overlay and black text, IEP Data collecting Baseline data

Writing IEP Goals Using Baselines

If you are a new special education teacher or a veteran teacher, you need to know how to write IEP goals using baselines. Writing IEP goals using baselines is a sure-fire way to write SMART IEP goals that are easily measurable, trackable, and teachable. By using baselines when you write an IEP, you are ensuring that the goal is a skill the student needs to work on and give you a starting place for data collection. Keep reading to find some tips and tricks when writing IEPs and using baselines to write IEP goals.

Why do we write IEP goals using baselines?

Imagine I told you that Johnny scored 40% on his spelling test. Would that make you happy or disappointed? No matter what you thought – your wrong. Because you don’t know where he started. If I told you he consistently scored 95%, you might be a little disappointed in his 40% and wonder why he struggled this time. If I told you that he consistently scored 0% on his spelling tests, you would probably be over the moon that he got a 40%.

That’s why we collect baseline data. We have to know where our kids are starting at. Without a baseline, you don’t know if your student has gone up or down over time. You need a starting point. So, by collecting baseline data you know how much your student has grown, and if they’ve regressed.

It’s also important to use baseline data to know for sure which areas your students need to work on. Why would you want to write a goal for adding two digit numbers if Johnny can already do that? Or, why would you write that goal if Johnny couldn’t add numbers within 5. Baseline data helps guide our goal writing to know which goals are appropriate for a student.

What to use for baseline data collection?

I used to scour the internet for various assessments and print out random worksheets just hoping that something would be what my student needed. But, that got old fast, didn’t give me great information, and wasn’t systematic in assessing students. I knew there had to be better, but I just couldn’t find it. So, I took my years of experience as a special education teacher and created my own baseline assessments. I tweaked them to make them better. And then I decided to share them online with other teachers.

I really think flexibility is important, so I made sure each assessment (phonics, reading comprehension, writing, spelling, basic math skills, & more advanced math skills) had three versions so that teachers could use them at the beginning, middle, and end of the year if they wanted to. I also made sure they were systematic in that the assessments start with more basic skills and increasingly become more complex. This provides you tons of data in a short period of time. For my students, I typically stop students when they make too many errors or appear to be making random guesses. Each assessment comes with a data collection sheet and an answer key. This makes it super easy to check them and to keep track of scores!

When to administer baselines for writing IEP goals?

This is going to vary per district policy. In my district, I only complete baseline assessments when a student is due for an annual review, a re-eval, or an initial eval. Some districts do require teachers to assess at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. This means its important to check with someone in your building if you aren’t sure. If you do use these throughout the year, it’s a great way to show growth because the assessments are all formatted exactly the same. This provides an ‘apples to apples’ comparison of student growth.

How many areas do you assess per student?

Again, it’s going to vary by district by I only collect baseline data for areas the student qualifies in. For instance, if a student qualified for academic services in the areas of decoding, reading comprehension, and writing I would use those baseline assessments. I would not have that student complete the math assessments. However, some districts do require information on every academic area, so double check.

It’s important to remember that these assessments are not standardized and are NOT used for qualifying a student with an IEP. This is a data point to determine what a student might need a goal in, after you’ve used your standardized testing and assessment procedures to determine what areas the student qualifies. In other words, these assessments won’t tell you if a student should receive services in decoding. But, they will help you determine if that student needs a goal in glued sounds or some other phonics pattern.

Ensuring Validity of IEP Baseline Data

If the data isn’t valid, it’s really not even worth taking. If Johnny didn’t have his ADHD medicine that morning, it might not be a great day to take baseline data. Also, if he’s upset because of game he lost at recess or busy thinking about his fun weekend plans that might not get you valid data, either. Try to get your kids on a day/time that they are able to truly demonstrate what they can.

And, another thing. Consider accommodations or other supports a student has and will continue to use. If Johnny has a calculator accommodation, decide whether you want him to use that for baseline data. It’s personal choice as to whether you want to find out they can do on their own, or with the supports that they will (or already do) receive.


Writing IEP goals using baselines is the easiest way to write IEP goals. It takes the guesswork out of criteria and ensures you are picking skills that students truly need to work on. By carefully selecting baseline assessments that allow students to work on skills in isolation, you can easily see where students are struggling and how you can best support them. When you take great data it makes it easier to write IEP goals which then makes it easier to do progress monitoring and write progress updates.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Giraffic Jam Logo

Hey there!

I love helping teachers and students by creating materials that are engaging and appropriate for all learners.


I believe that all students have the ability to learn and grow when given the proper resources.


Want to know more?

Let's Connect!

Price - slider
Price - inputs
Special Education
Special Education
Holidays & Seasonal