November 14, 2019

By Dr. Rachel Brown, NCSP, Senior Research Consultant

Students with dyslexia are likely to make slower progress in reading than other students, which is why the need for creating IEP goals for dyslexia is so great.

With appropriate goals, direct and systematic instruction, progress monitoring, and regular data review, students with dyslexia can become proficient lifelong readers.

In this blog, I’ll explain the importance of goal setting, provide information about progress monitoring, and discuss how carefully selected IEP goals for dyslexia can play a role in the best reading outcomes for students.

Teen boy reading

How does dyslexia affect a student’s learning?

Dyslexia is a widely-recognized reading disorder that affects both learning to read and reading skills over one’s lifetime. Individuals with dyslexia can learn to read, although it often requires additional intensive instruction. Once dyslexia is diagnosed, a treatment plan that includes direct and systematic instruction of the major components of reading is needed.

Alongside the treatment plan, students benefit from regular progress monitoring to document reading improvement and attainment of one or more goals—a process I’ll discuss in detail later in this blog.

Dyslexia screening for students

Different assessments are available to help screen students for characteristics of dyslexia. Renaissance offers both FastBridge and Star Assessments, which assess students’ understanding of letters and their sounds, move on to basic phonological awareness and early decoding, and progress to passage reading.

By also utilizing FastBridge or Star Assessments as a progress monitoring tool, educators can use actionable data to see a progression of measures that help track students’ progress toward reading proficiency.

Little girl with a book

Two considerations when setting IEP goals for students with dyslexia

All students—not just those with dyslexia—whose current reading skills are below grade-level expectations need additional instruction to improve and catch up to their peers. The exact amount and type of additional instruction needed will depend on the specific reading deficits that each student has.

Schools often use a multi-tier system of support (MTSS) to organize and provide supplementary reading instruction for those students who need it. When thinking about each student’s reading goals, educators must consider two important factors:

  1. How much growth is needed for the student to catch up to their peers in the current school year?
  2. Should the goals be realistic or ambitious?

Let’s explore each factor in detail.

#1: Achieving catch-up growth

Accelerating reading growth for students who need to catch up to their peers is very important. Without it, poor readers are likely to experience the “Matthew Effect”. This term refers to a quote from the Christian Bible that is often paraphrased as “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” It’s a pattern in which those who begin with an advantage accumulate even more of an advantage, while those who begin with a disadvantage become even more disadvantaged over time.

How does this connect to education? Unless focused efforts are applied, students who learn to read easily and without extra teacher support will go on to enjoy reading and experience a lifetime of reading success. In contrast, students who struggle to learn how to read—whether due to dyslexia or for some other reason—are likely to dislike reading and avoid it, thus continuing to experience literary “poverty” throughout their lives.

To prevent the Matthew Effect, schools need to address students’ reading problems as soon as they are known and focus on helping students to achieve “catch-up” growth. Catch-up growth refers to how students who start the school year behind their grade-level peers need to improve their reading skills at a faster rate than their peers do. This helps them to master missing skills and be able to read as well as classmates who started with stronger reading skills.

An example of utilizing catch-up growth with students

One case study, The Kennewick Model: Annual Growth, Catch-up Growth, conducted in the town of Kennewick, WA, documented the steps needed to provide catch-up growth to students with low reading scores. Sometimes known as the “Kennewick Model,” this school district recognized that too many students were experiencing the Matthew Effect and enlisted the school board, community members, teachers, and parents to provide improved reading instruction and supports for all students.

The Kennewick school board set a goal for at least 90% of students to demonstrate reading proficiency each year. Through a sustained multi-year effort, this goal was achieved.

Key features of the Kennewick Model are:

  1. It was a comprehensive system of support, much like an MTSS.
  2. It allocated school resources for evidence-based reading instruction at all grade levels.

Methods like the Kennewick Model include direct and systematic instruction, which has been shown to be effective for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Importantly, students with dyslexia typically demonstrate very significant reading deficits and need to make catch-up growth to read well enough to graduate from high school.

#2: Setting realistic or ambitious goals

When setting IEP goals for dyslexia, educators should consider whether the goals should be realistic or ambitious. These terms refer to the rates of reading progress that are typical for all students, and the rates necessary for students to achieve catch-up growth.

Realistic goals reflect the typical rate of improvement (ROI) in reading skills for all students when provided with general education (or Tier 1) reading instruction. Research suggests that student reading growth varies across grade levels. Specifically, students typically improve more quickly in kindergarten through grade 2 and then show slower growth in the remaining elementary grades.

For example, students are likely to improve by adding two words read correctly each week in grade 1. This rate changes to adding less than one word read correctly each week by grade 6.

A student’s rate of improvement will also vary in relation to the type and amount of reading instruction provided. Reading instruction that is direct and systematic, and is provided every day, is likely to result in a larger ROI than incidental teaching.

Improving reading outcomes

Discover solutions from Renaissance to give all students a strong start in reading.

Group of young students reading

Utilizing progress monitoring to assist with goal setting

Renaissance recommends that students’ goals be set in relation to the instruction provided. To assist education teams with goal setting, all FastBridge progress monitoring goal values are, for example, labeled to indicate how challenging the goal is using the following terms:

  • Very realistic
  • Realistic
  • Ambitious
  • Very ambitious

Educators are advised to select realistic or ambitious goals because they are linked with expected ROI that will help a student catch up to grade-level expectations. The realistic goal value is set at 1.5 words read correctly (WRC), which is the amount of weekly growth observed in typical readers across grades.

Although higher goals can be set, it’s important to consider whether it’s likely that the student can reach the goal in the time available. Setting a goal that’s significantly higher than the typical growth is likely to result in the student not meeting the goal. Importantly, students with dyslexia often require more time to develop reading proficiency. For this reason, goals higher than 2 WRC per week are not recommended in IEP goals for dyslexia.

Given that students with dyslexia need to make catch-up growth, reasonably ambitious goals that range from 1.6 to 2 WRC per week are recommended.

How to use progress monitoring for IEP goals with dyslexia

In addition to setting an attainable goal, it’s important for progress monitoring to happen often enough for the student and teacher to review the data and adjust instruction if needed. If you’re new to progress monitoring or you’re looking for best practices, utilize our Progress Monitoring Toolkit to get started.

Frequency is key

For students with significant reading deficits, regular progress monitoring is recommended. In FastBridge, weekly assessment with CBMreading or an earlyReading subtest is sensitive to student growth, yet not so frequent as to take time away from instruction.

Data review

To know if a student is making effective progress towards a reading goal, especially when it comes to IEP goals for dyslexia, the data need to be reviewed at regular intervals. That said, there must be enough data points available for the scores to be reliable. Prior research suggested that at least 10 to 12 scores are needed before progress data can be interpreted.

Recently, a new method for calculating the trend and expected direction of future growth was developed in FastBridge, resulting in the FAST Projection line. Using Bayesian statistics, this alternative method can reliably predict a student’s future growth with as few as six data points. Knowing that student progress can vary for many reasons, it’s best to review progress data every four to six weeks to see if ROI is on track to meet the goal or if an instructional change is needed.

Group of teachers

Creating IEP goals for dyslexia

When working through IEP goal development for dyslexia, teachers should create an IEP goal in each area of need. For example, if three separate needs have been identified, you should have three separate goals for the student.

Educators can use these six steps to help build IEP goals for dyslexia:

  1. Choose when the student will master the goal.
  2. Be specific about which skill(s) the student will learn.
  3. Clearly state the setting in which the skill(s) will be measured.
  4. State how the student’s progress will be measured.
  5. Be specific with how accurate the student must be.
  6. State if the student can have any support and still be considered to have met the goal.

What not to do when creating IEP goals for dyslexia

When creating your students’ IEP goals for dyslexia, avoid the following “red flags” to help create realistic, attainable goals for students. Do not:

  1. Lump all of the reading goals together in a single goal.
  2. Take goals away until a reevaluation shows there is no longer a need in that area.
  3. Create goals that aren’t specific.
  4. Create goals that aren’t connected to baseline data.
  5. Create goals that aren’t going to lead to realistic progress.
  6. Create goals that will result in little progress over a school year.
  7. Repeat goals year after year. (If students do not attain a goal, they should be provided with appropriate services and progress monitoring.)
  8. Create goals that do not have appropriate progress monitoring.
Teacher and boy

Use tools from Renaissance to support IEP goals for dyslexia and students who struggle with reading

To sum up, setting IEP goals for dyslexia can vary depending on the needs of the student. What does the catch-up growth look like for the student? Should the goals be reasonable, ambitious, or somewhere in between?

We understand that students with dyslexia are likely to make slower reading progress than other students. However, they benefit from reasonably ambitious goals, depending on the type and frequency of instruction.

With direct and systematic instruction, regular progress monitoring, appropriate goals, and thoughtful data review, students with dyslexia can become proficient leaders.

Learn more

Connect with an expert today to learn about Renaissance tools and resources to help you set IEP goals for dyslexia and track progress with attainable data.

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