Law Office of Michelle Ball Disabilities,graduation,Special education/IEP IEP Goals Need To Align With State Mandates

IEP Goals Need To Align With State Mandates

Student, IEP goals state standards

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Are student IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals for special education mystifying to you? You are not alone. Let’s talk about one aspect: aligning student goals to state content standards.

Goals for IEP
State content standards matter and should be reflected in IEP goals

What are IEP Goals?

IEP goals are annual targets that a school and/or student services providers via a school (like occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, etc.) aim to achieve for a student annually. Student goals are to be based on present levels of performance and improving the student’s skills and understanding in certain areas of need.

Most students have goals written into their IEP which are unique to them. As not all special education students are the same, they will not all have the same goal areas.

Are There a Minimum Number of Goals for a Student?

No. There are not a minimum number of goals, but students do have to have goals that are related to their needs outlined in the IEP.

State Content Standards

States have written standards schools are supposed to meet for every grade level which are set by the California Department of Education (CDE). The California state content standards cover the following subjects:


Special education students should be aiming to meet their grade level standards, which starts with goals

English Language Arts

Social Science and History



Computer Science

Physical Education

World Languages


Career technical education

Model School Library

Goals, State Content Standards and a Free and Appropriate Public Education

In 2015, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), a branch of the United States Department of Education, issued guidance on IEP goals and their relation to state content standards.

In its publication, the feds strongly remind states that special education students are to be striving to meet their state’s standards for learning, just like non-special education students.

OSERS indicates:

Therefore, in order to make FAPE [Free and Appropriate Public Education] available to each eligible child with a disability, the special education and related services, supplementary aids and services, and other supports in the child’s IEP must be designed to enable the child to advance appropriately toward attaining his or her annual IEP goals and to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum based on the State’s academic content standards for the grade in which the child is enrolled.

Essentially, if goals are not aligned to California state content standards (or the state where a student attends school), they may not be receiving FAPE.

Do Goals Really Have to Meet State Content Standards?

Not always. OSERs indicates that student goals should still be tailored to the student. They also recognize that some students, “with the most significant cognitive disabilities’ may have to have goals measured against “alternate academic achievement standards.”

Does this defeat the purpose of stating they have to be connected to state standards? Maybe.

Future achievement may be defined by goals
Good futures come with good student planning and appropriate goals to keep special education students on target

Why Tailor Goals to Student’s Grade Level Standards?

The reason to mold IEP goals to meet the grade level of a student is simple: if IEP teams don’t, a student may be left behind academically. They may then not be able to keep up with their grade and class.

Writing goals for students reflecting grade level content standards ensures the IEP plan developed will include the services and supports to meet those standards.

Ultimately, the goal is for the student to graduate with a high school diploma, and be prepared for employment. How can that happen other than when a student is making adequate yearly progress?

Special education lawyer Michelle Ball helps families with IEP meetings, crafting student plans to meet students needs, and ensuring compliance by school districts. As an attorney for students in Sacramento California, Michelle may assist statewide in places such as Long Beach, Roseville, Stockton, Davis, Granite Bay, Folsom, and wherever students may be.