A student’s progress or mastery toward his/her IEP goals is never the basis for his/her grade.

It is important to point out that, even if written in measurable terms, a goal such as “70% mastery of grade- level TEKS” does not meet IDEA requirements of a measurable goal detailed in 34 CFR §300.320(a)(2)(ii). Such a goal is simply a restatement of the expectations for all students in general education.

Students’ IEPs should not contain a restatement of the state standards, but must include measurable annual goals. Those goals designate the necessary learning for the student to ensure access to and progress in the general curriculum as well as resulting in the student’s attainment of standards set out as critical in his/ her PLAAFP (performance levels of academic achievement and functional performance).

LEAs report students’ progress towards mastery of their IEP goals through IEP progress reports.  This is its own process and is separate from reporting students’ grades.

IEP Goals and IEP Progress Reporting

All students receiving special education services must have measurable annual IEP goals.  All students receiving special education services in an academic area must have corresponding, standards-based annual goals that link to enrolled grade-level content standards.

The student’s PLAAFP (present levels of academic achievement and functional performance) is the basis for his/her annual IEP goals.  The student’s PLAAFP inform the manner of the specially designed instruction that the student needs in order to progress toward enrolled grade-level standards.

The curriculum standards in Texas are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for students in Kindergarten – Grade 12. Preschool students should have goals aligned with the Texas Infant, Toddler, and Three-Year-Old Learning Guidelines, and/or The Texas Prekindergarten Guidelines or district adopted prekindergarten curriculum for students aged three and four.

While aligned with grade-level content standards, IEP goals are not a restatement of the standards.

Once the ARD committee has developed measurable annual goals (consisting of standards based and/or functional goals) based on a student’s PLAAFP, the ARD committee must decide how the LEA will measure the student’s progress and how often the student’s progress toward mastery of his/her goals will be reported throughout the year. Districts must report a student’s progress toward mastery of all of his/her IEP goals.  The ARD committee must note in the student’s IEP when the LEA will provide the student’s parents with periodic reports of the student’s progress toward meeting his/her annual goals.

The reporting of progress is distinctly different than the issuing of grades in the courses in which the student is enrolled. Best practice dictates that teachers should report a student’s progress in the same manner in which the student’s goals and associated objectives (if applicable) are measured; however, this is not a requirement.

Best Practices for Teachers

After considering the legal requirements and decisions made by the ARD committee, teachers should review the following best practices. Grading practices can incorporate these guidelines insofar as the guidelines are consistent with district grading policy.

Ken O’Connor outlines four keys to success for effective grading in his article “Making the Grades” to make grades accurate, meaningful, consistent, and supportive of learning (2009).

Make Grades ACCURATE

Accurate grades separate student and teacher behaviors and attitudes from achievement scores. In doing so, grades are purely authentic measurements of achievement and focus solely on student proficiency in well-defined content and/or standards.


Grades must communicate useful, concrete information to the student and parents about achievement and performance on specified standards.


The interpretation and description of clearly described performance standards and processes for grading should remain the same from teacher to teacher and be evident from classroom to classroom.


Focus grading practices on quality of work and ensure that grades are a true reflection of student learning, rather than just an accumulation of points.

The material in this post was excerpted from Grading and Progress Monitoring for Students with Disabilities: A Resource for Teachers by Education Service Center, Region 20.  You can read and download this resource at