Goal Setting

Setting goals is a value driven activity. There is no single way to set goals, and what is the correct action for one situation may be the wrong action for another. Once interventions are established, an outcome goal should be determined. Using Reading Curriculum - Based Measurement (RCBM) we can efficiently and effectively monitor student progress with a simple procedure of having students read orally a passage for a minute and recording the score. Note. Although RCBM goals are set to measure reading rate, pull-out interventions are focused on comprehensive reading instruction and not solely on increasing reading rate. There are three approaches detailed in this paper, that can be used to set goals for intervention service. These approaches include, a standards based approach, a normative approach and a growth referenced approach. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes one approach is clearly a better option than another, other times a decision is made strictly based on values, and still in other situations, two or more of the approaches result in the same conclusion. Typically, when setting goals for students not in special education, goals are set according to a standards based approach, unless otherwise decided with consultation of a  problem-solving team.

Standards Based Goals

When Standards Based Goals, a goal is selected based on what is expected for all studentsThis type of goal would indicate that a student who meets the expectation is likely to meet standards (either grade level or state test).
  • A strength of Standards Based Goals is that it designates what is needed for a student to be successful regardless of what the student can currently do. For this reason, Standards Based Goals are ideal for setting goals in general education. Using Standards Based Goals can be very powerful when a staff decides that a student has to be proficient and is willing to sacrifice typical practices, schedules, pedagogy and materials to achieve the goal.
  • A weakness of Standards Based Goals is that they can be unrealistic for many students with special needs.
            Benchmark Targets predictive of success on high stakes tests are available for many tests used for accountability. General education students who have scores below the benchmark targets should have goals set to these targets by intervention teachers. For example, a target in the spring of third grade is 115 Words Read Correctly (WRC) per minute, thus, all third grade students who enter intervention should have a goal of 115 set for the spring of that year.  A listing of targets set according to predictive validity with the state test in Illinois is presented in Table 1 below are the goals that should be set by intervention teachers.

Table 1 Benchmark Target Goals

GRADE Measure   Proficient   Time Frame
K LSF   30 Letter Sounds Winter
K NWF   25 Letter Sounds Spring
1 RCBM   60 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
2   90 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
3   115 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
4   140 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
5   155 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
6   160 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
7   165 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
8   165 Words Orally Read Correctly per Minute Spring
Note. Using Standards Based Goals, values displayed in Table 1are goals for students in intervention based on values from cut scores available on measuredeffects.com

Norm Referenced Goals

A second type of goal is Norm Referenced Goals. This type of goal would indicate that a student who meets the expectation is likely to be successful working with in a group with typical students.  Norm referenced goals are  actually a type of Standards Based Goals in which the standard is the lower bound of typical for a district. To determine norm referenced goals, the first step is to determine what is considered typical performance. For example a district might define typical as performance between the 25th and 75th percentile within a grade level across the district, across a cooperative of districts, from a table of state or even national norms. Once a decision is made about what is typical, the lower bound may be used to set the Norm Referenced Goal.
  • A strength of Norm Referenced Goals is that once typical is defined, a target is easy to set. The target is easily translated into a comparison to the general education.  Because Norm Referenced Goals are easily translated into the general education comparison, this type of goal can be used to maximize compliance with the rules of Least Restrictive Environment.
  • The recommendation for using Norm Referenced Goals is to set the goal for the lower bound of average (i.e., the 25th percentile); however, for some students this expectation may not be realistic.
  • A weakness of Norm Referenced Goals is like Standards Referenced Goals, when used dogmatically, a Norm Referenced Goal can be unrealistic for students with special needs.
An example set of norms for fall and spring is presented in table 2.
Table 2 An example set of Reading Curriculum Based Measurement Norms for grades 1 - 8
FALL   Spring
Grade 25 50 75 Valid N   25 50 75  N
1 9 21 55 959   47 76 108 3427
2 46 72 101 3666   88 115 141 4187
3 67 95 123 3517   106 133 157 4007
4 93 116 142 4148   120 145 171 4625
5 105 133 160 4730   142 167 192 4872
6 129 152 176 2845   151 175 202 2929
7 131 154 177 3028   153 177 199 3041
8 135 156 175 3133   155 176 196 2891

Using the information provided in Table 2, we can determine the lower bound of typical for any grade level. Intervention teachers working with general education students would set intervention goals for spring using this table. For example, the spring lower bound of typical (i.e., 25th percentile) for grade 3 is 106 Words Read Correctly (WRC) per minute, thus, all third grade students who enter intervention would have a goal of 106 set for the spring of that year.  (Note, for simplicity, I would recommend rounding this value to 105 WRC)

Growth Referenced Goals

This type of goal would indicate that a student who meets the expectation is making progress relative to their own level of achievement, even though it may still be substantially below either normative information or standards. When Growth Referenced Goals, a goal is calculated based on the amount of growth that is expected for a student, taking into account the individual characteristics of the student, with regards to the intensity of the intervention that is being delivered.
  • A strength of Growth Referenced Goals is that this type of goal is always individualized.
  • A weakness of Growth Referenced Goals is without using a standard for expected growth, goals can be written to be either too difficult or too easy to attain.
  • In addition, typically Growth Referenced Goals require that the same measure is used during baseline and evaluation phases of the goal. This is ideal for monitoring progress within a school year, but it does not work well for setting a goal in which the material being used for progress monitoring changes from baseline to evaluation phase because of scaling issues (i.e., 3rd grade passages are easier than 4th grade, but more difficult than 2nd grade passages; and typically 5th grade passages are easier than 6th grade, but more difficult than 4th). There are strategies to overcome the scaling issues such as measuring the percent of goal, or percent of normative performance attained, but this is covered in another white paper on evaluating goals.

For students who are reading substantially below benchmark targets (i.e., typically students receiving Tier 3 intervention service  where it is not realistic to set the goal for targets mentioned above), a reasonable but challenging goal should be set. A reasonable but challenging expectation for growth is a word to one and a half word increase per week.  The values presented in table 3, represent an estimate of the expected gains in CBM from Fall (or Winter) to Spring.  For example, a student at the K-2 level who enters intervention in the Fall may reasonably be expected to gain 50 Words Orally Read Correctly per minute from Fall to Spring, but only 25 words from Winter to Spring. This represents an increase of approximately 1.5 words per week. At the same time a student at 3-5 level might be expected to gain only 1.2 words per week, translating to 40 words from Fall to Spring, or 20 from Winter to Spring.

Table 3 General Guidelines for Typical Growth in Words Read

  Fall Entry Growth * 150% Growth * 200%
K - 2 ~50 letter /word increase Add 75 Add 100
3 - 5 ~40 word increase Add 60 Add 80
6- 8 ~30 word increase Add 45 Add 60
Note: Using Growth Referenced Goals, the values displayed are added to the baseline score to derive a goal. As these are approximations, goals should be rounded to the next five.

For example, if a grade 3 student were reading 17 WRC in fall  neither standard nor normative targets fall into the  typical range or even a year and a half of  growth (Standard Target is 115 WRC; Normative Target is 106). When using  Growth Referenced Goals the intervention team must weigh the desire to catch up against what is reasonable to expect. It is often considered reasonable to expect 150% of typical growth for students receiving intensive intervention, In this example, the Growth Referenced Goal would be 77 WRC by fall (This could be rounded to 80). Growth referenced goals have the benefit of being attainable, but the obvious drawback, that even meeting some Growth Referenced Goals is unsatisfying.


Goal Setting with EduTools.us

EduTools.us has a Goal Setting Help Tool to assist teachers and diagnosticians with setting growth referenced goals relative to a normative group. To use the tool begin by setting up a progress monitoring schedule. an example is presented in Figure 1.

Once information for the time line for the schedule, the initial score, and a normative comparison have been entered, click the button marked [Goal Help].

Selecting the option to have EduTools.us assist with goal setting will bring up the menu in figure 2.  Using this menu, a teacher or diagnostician can choose to enter the expected increase per week, in this case the expected increase in the number of words read correctly that is expected was 1.5. When the Calculate Goal button is selected, the system multiplies 1.5 * 37 weeks, then adds 17. This value is 72.5, or 73, which is written into the section for the goal score.

When normative information is available, it is often helpful to use this as a guide for what can reasonably be expected. Selecting the checkbox, results in the system calculating the normative rate of progress, and inserting the actual rate into the area designated for how much progress is expected in this case 1.2 is automatically entered into the expected rate area. Using the dropdown menu, the teacher or diagnostician can select a multiplier to indicate the growth above the typical rate that is expected (due to the efforts of intervention).

As mentioned above it is often the case  that teams expect 1.25 to 1.5 times the amount of growth for students to be able to catch up (i.e.,  goals of 73 and 84 WRC respectively). Selecting 1.5 from the dropdown menu results in an expected growth of 1.82, and a Goal score of 84 Words Read Correctly. EduTools.us provides tools to help practitioners with tedious calculations, and analyses allowing teachers to do what teachers do best; teach!