Writing Short Term Objectives/Benchmarks
The purpose of both short-term objectives and benchmarks is to gauge, at intermediate times during the year, how well the child is progressing toward achievement of the annual goal. There is no rule governing when a short-term objective should be written instead of a benchmark. When IDEA was reauthorized in 2004, the requirement for including short-term objectives or benchmarks in the IEP was changed. Specifically, there is no longer a requirement to include short-term objectives/benchmarks unless a child will be taking an alternative state assessment. At this time there are no formal state assessments given to preschool-age children, so there is no longer a requirement to include short-term objectives/benchmarks for this population of children.
While not required, short-term objectives/benchmarks continue to be a useful com-componente of an IEP by providing intermediate gauges of progress toward the overall goal. Some districts require teachers to include short-term objectives/benchmarks, so remember to follow your district's guidance if it differs from the state. Young children can have significant gains in their development within the course of a year, and the use of short-term objectives or benchmarks are an appropriate vehicle for monitoring not only the progress of the child, but also the effectiveness of specific interventions. Without short-term objectives or benchmarks IEP teams may have inadequate information for adapting or modifying interventions in a timely manner, thus prohibiting the child's ability to make the necessary progress toward the annual goal.
Short-term objectives are written in the same manner as measurable annual goals. They are measurable, intermediate steps between the child's baseline data established in the PLAAFP and the measurable annual goal. Short-term objectives break the goal into discrete components and are written in hierarchical order. They include the same components as the goal (timeframe, conditions, behavior, and criterion).
Examples of Short-term Objectives:
- In 9 instructional weeks, during group activities, Sally will attend to the speaker of the group for 4 minutes on 3 consecutive observations.
- In 18 instructional weeks, during group activities, Sally will attend to the speaker of the group for 6 minutes on 3 consecutive observations.
- In 36 instructional weeks, during group activities, Sally will attend to the speaker of the group for 8 minutes on 3 consecutive observations.
Benchmarks are major milestones that describe content to be learned or skills to be performed in sequential order. These are commonly used when working with process skills, or a complex task made up of other smaller tasks or skills. Like short-term objectives, benchmarks include a timeframe, condition, and behavior. However, benchmarks do not include a criterion for mastery. The underlying thought is "Can the child do the skill or not". It is important not to confuse IEP benchmarks with district benchmarks.
Examples of Benchmarks:
- In 9 instructional weeks, when asked to count, Sally will count to 3.
- In 18 instructional weeks, when asked to count, Sally will count to 5.
- In 36 instructional weeks, when asked to count, Sally will count to 8.
Essential Elements of Short-Term Objectives/Benchmarks
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