Why do the percentages of my child’s IEP objectives vary? Shouldn’t there always be a mastery of 90% or better?
This is a good question and one frequently asked. Let’s first begin with an objective that states, “Given a writing prompt, the student will write a five sentence paragraph with 90% accuracy.” The percentages could be 70%, 80% or even 95%. The percentages are called the criterion of the objective. It is the criteria that your child’s teacher uses to determine if your child has adequately mastered the goal.
With the writing objective above, the student would likely be graded using a rubric. The rubric would clearly specify the components of the paragraph that the student would be graded upon. For example, the rubric could grade spelling, grammar, organization, punctuation, capitalization, and so on. In order to master the objective, your child would need 90% accuracy which usually equates to a letter grade of A.
Now that we discussed the criteria, let’s examine why it varies. The criterion is set by the IEP team members. You are an important member of the team so your input about the criterion is important. Most of the time mastery is considered 75% or better. This equates to a ‘satisfactory’ C letter grade. I recommend a criterion of 80% or higher.
Think about it. In life there are few behaviors that are done with 100% accuracy. Do most people drive with 100% accuracy and avoid accidents? Do you eat with 100% neatness or do you occasionally drop food on your blouse, shirt, or lap? Of course there are behaviors you want mastered at 100% such as crossing the street, identifying letters of the alphabet, and reciting your phone number.
Inexperienced teachers may set the criterion too low because they want to make sure the child masters the objective and so that they don’t look bad. They may believe it makes them look like a poor teacher if the child does not master the objective. Do not underestimate your child, set the bar high and most will rise to the occasion with the right supports, materials, and practice. If a child does not master the objective it can be carried over to the next IEP as long as the team members still believe it is important to learn.
The bottom line is that the objective’s criterion is going to vary depending on the behavior, the IEP team members, and the child’s unique needs. If you know your child is capable of doing more, request that they do more! As a parent if you don’t agree with the criteria then discuss it with the IEP members.