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My name is Maureen and I used to write all of my goals for 80% accuracy. It was routine. A habit, and I couldn’t stop! It was so automatic when I reached the accuracy portion of writing a goal. ??‍♀️ Why did I do it? Well, that’s what they told me to do in grad school. It was as simple as that. Once I began working, I noticed that the other SLPs in my district were writing goals for 80% too, so I didn’t think much of it. It seemed pretty standard. We all wanted our students to hit that 80% “average” mark.

Enter…that one time I took a goal writing seminar at ISHA. What an eye opening experience! This was probably 8 – 9 years ago, when people were just starting to chat about SMART goals, you know, before it was cool ? During the session, the SMART goal framework was discussed along with other great tidbits of info. One such bit being to always be conscientious of your time for a goal and to make sure you are not setting up the student for failure by setting an accuracy or criteria that is not truly achievable. Then a statement was made that still resonates with me today, ” If a child has a baseline of 20% for a goal, can you ethically and realistically write a projection for 80%? ” In a year, can a student make 300% growth? Now, of course we take into account all factors of the child but most of the time, the answer is ‘no’.  Can you realistically ( and let’s not forget ethically ) say that a student who has a baseline of 20% for a linguistic skill like, oh let’s say categorizing, can be at 80% in year….while being seen 2 times a week in a group of 3…while they target other goals as well. All of these factors: student ability, time, etc play into what is going to be challenging but achievable growth.

We also need to consider being able to collect reliable data with our goals.  We don’t need to take data on each trial.  We need raw data, which is the data collected before any teaching begins.  You only need to get a few trails ( 5-10 ) at the beginning of your session. If you are collecting data during your entire session it may start to reflect that 80% even though it isn’t really what is going on.

I recently came across this article from the ASHA LEADER . ( I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the article if you can ) It helped to shed some light as to where that magic 80% came from. It turns out that it was just an arbitrary number but based in a bit research. These two points stuck out at me:

  • Children who achieved 75-percent accuracy on articulation targets maintained or improved performance after therapy ended.
  • Students who achieved 75-percent accuracy on articulation of /s/ and /r/ in conversation retained these sounds after four months just as much as peers who were dismissed at the 95-percent accuracy level.

Now, while this all sounds great, it more applies to speech sound disorders and rote skills. Anything out of that realm and the magic 80% may not be the best choice. So what are we to do with more complex language tasks and pragmatic goals that don’t fit in that 80% box?

Before I go on, I am going to share something that I wish some had told me all those years ago. When you are writing a goal it is ok and totally acceptable to write a goal for 30%, 40%, 50% accuracy, if that is going to be challenging for the child but still achievable! Goals build on each other.  Progress comes over time, not over night. Also, if writing a goal with a percentage accuracy isn’t working out, try a rubric instead. These are my go-to for carryover goals, fluency, pragmatic goals, etc. Anything that is not an easy YES/NO tally.  When you are writing the goal with a rubric in mind for data collection, just put in the desired rating instead of the percentage. I use these rubrics to make my life easier, if you’re interested and want to check them out, CLICK HERE.  

Rubrics can be as detailed as you need without turning your goals into a paragraph since you are putting the desired rating into the goal.  Teachers are highly familiar with rubrics, so having them get input on student progress is very easy.  Parents find rubrics helpful because they give a better description of the child’s skill and level rather than just a number.

If goal writing isn’t your jam, I have an ever growing SMART Goal List Bank on my site. Take a look for some ideas on structure. If you have a challenging goal that you just can’t find the wording for, remember, I am just an email away.

Writing goals can be one thing, managing them is a whole other story!  If you are feeling overwhelmed with giving each of your students’ goals enough and love and care then check out SWIVEL. 


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Meet Maureen

Hey there! I’m Maureen Wilson, a school-base SLP who is data driven and caffeine powered. My passion is supporting other pediatric SLPs by teaching them how to harness the power of literacy and data to help their students achieve their goals…without sacrificing time they don’t have.

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2 Responses

  1. Is it still a smart goal if I write a goal with a higher accuracy criteria but I add in the fact that the child will have visual supports or they will identify something with a field of 2 versus a field of 3 or without a field? I’m in grad school right now just looking for extra advice. Goal writing is so specific!

    1. Yes, goal writing does kinda of become and art form over time lol. As long as you can identify each component of SMART in your goal, clearly, then it is good.

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