Annual Goals: Passing the Stranger Test

Transition IEPs are a multifaceted artifact, created in concert with the student, their family, the school’s special education staff, and other members of the student’s support team. Annual goals recorded in a Transition IEP must:

  • be observable;
  • be skill-based;
  • be measurable;
  • support the transition plan; and
  • be based upon present level data.

But the most important qualification for annual goals to work in a Transition IEP is they first must pass the “Stranger Test.”

What is the “Stranger Test”? Think of those times that you received a new IEP from another state. Did you understand all the parts you read? If someone came in and asked you to have the student display their skills as outlined in their annual goals, would you know exactly what skill they were to perform, how to connect annual goals to the student’s Transition Plan, or how to measure for the student’s performance?

For example, you could interpret a goal of increasing expressive language as a reference to verbal output, whereas the original goal might have intended to measure use of an assistive device or sign language. Knowing this crucial distinction is essential to measure progress toward this goal. Check out this discussion about the Stranger Test from the Zumbro Education District in Byron, Minnesota for further insight.

It can help to have another person read your annual goals to find out how clear they are. Consider sharing them with a round table of fellow educators to gain objective feedback on how well they understand the annual goals.

Until then, below are some links to examples of good annual goals that would pass the “Stranger Test.”

Bonus Tip:
If you have any questions or need help writing your annual goals, follow this link from 2:30–4:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday afternoons to join our weekly Open Office Hours.