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Goal Setting in Education

October 5th, 2017

You have finished universal screening with all students…now what? What do you do with the student scores? What next steps do you need to take? 

Goal setting in education is an important step within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework, whether applied to universal screening or progress monitoring. 

Within an MTSS framework, goal setting and interpretation of each student’s progress towards a set goal can be critical to future instructional and intervention decisions. While the goal itself is important, it is also important to understand how and why a specific goal has been established.

Goal setting can occur at the … 

  • Student
  • Classroom
  • School; or 
  • District

… level. FastBridge provides the tools and resources necessary for you to create meaningful and realistic goals for all students.

Table of Contents

  • Goal Setting in Education Using Benchmark Scores
  • Goal Setting in Education Using Normative Standards
  • Goal Setting in Education Using Screening Scores
  • Goal Setting in Education Using Rate of Improvement

Goal Setting in Education Using Benchmark Scores

In regard to universal screening, some goal setting has already been done for you. Benchmark scores serve as learning goals and provide a target score (i.e., criterion) for students to work toward (i.e., criterion-referenced goal). 

More specifically, benchmark scores are intended to indicate whether students will meet later learning goals. Benchmark scores are grade and time-sensitive, and are available for all FastBridge assessments, whether they involve: 

For example, a first-grade student should be reading greater than 15 words correctly per minute on the fall CBMreading assessment. The spring Benchmark score represents a student’s End of Year (EOY) goal or level of achievement. 

FastBridge has default benchmark settings for each assessment in order to aid in identifying instructional needs. The default benchmark settings are:

  • High risk — scores below the 15th percentile
  • Some risk — scores between 15th and 40th percentiles
  • Low risk — scores above the 40th percentile

While these default benchmark scores are provided, districts may also choose to select different benchmark settings and scores. 

Benchmark scores can be viewed and accessed through multiple report options, including the Group Screening Report and the Individual Benchmark Report. 

Benchmark scores provide an easy way to track a student’s progress toward grade-level expectations. They also provide an efficient way to set goals for a large number of students.

While benchmark scores may prove to be efficient and effective goals for a majority of students, there are some instances in which these goals are not realistic. 

For example, a benchmark score might not be an appropriate goal for a student who performs significantly below or above that score. In these situations, other pieces of information need to be considered in order to aid in the goal-setting process (i.e., past performance).

Goal Setting in Education Using Normative Standards

Similar to benchmark scores, a normative standard may also be used to establish end-of-year (EOY) goals for students (i.e., norm-referenced goals). 

For example, a FastBridge user may define that a particular student who performed at the 45th percentile in the fall will improve to the 50th percentile by EOY in the spring. The Group Screening Report is one feature that allows users to view … 

  • Local percentiles
  • National percentiles; and
  • Benchmark scores

… for individual students, classes, grade levels, or an entire school. 

While this may be appropriate for some students, there are some drawbacks to this goal-setting method. 

Although a student performing at the 30th percentile during winter and performing at the 35th percentile during spring does indicate improved performance, more information is needed in order to determine whether that growth is sufficient and whether the student is performing at benchmark. The combination of benchmark and normative scores helps teachers examine each student’s relative and standards-based performance.

Goal Setting in Education Using Screening Scores

Screening scores also play a role in setting up progress monitoring. A screening score is used to establish the initial level of performance (i.e., baseline). 

It is important to establish a stable baseline for a student before setting a goal or implementing an intervention. The initial level of performance can then be used to estimate the start and endpoint of the goal line for a student. 

This can all be accomplished with the FastBridge system through the progress monitoring set-up features. However, the goal line for a given student can also be adjusted, if needed. In progress monitoring, aside from screening scores, goals may also be set in regard to:

  • Frequency of monitoring student progress (i.e., weekly v. every other week)
  • Duration of monitoring student progress (i.e., 6 weeks v. 12 weeks; or until the desired goal is met)

Goal Setting in Education Using Rate of Improvement

Finally, a goal for a student may also be defined as a Rate of Improvement (ROI). 

Just as there are normative standards available for scores, there are also normative ROIs. These ROIs represent either a rate of weekly or monthly growth, depending on the measure in use. 

FastBridge users may access the Group Growth Report to view automatically identified ROI goals using Student Growth percentiles. The Screening-to-Intervention (s2i) report also provides individual ROI goals for progress monitoring use. 

ROIs can serve as an appropriate goal-setting method for those students who perform significantly above or below a benchmark score. 

While ROIs may be a viable alternative to norm- or criterion-referenced goals, it is important to consider: 

  • A student’s baseline
  • What interventions are currently being implemented with the student; and
  • The likelihood of achieving an ROI

For example, a student receiving targeted evidence-based intervention in addition to core instruction may be expected to make stronger than average growth (ROI) than a student only receiving core instruction.


Regardless of the goal-setting method used in education, it is best practice to have multiple sources of evidence to inform a student’s goal within an MTSS framework. 

A method that is successful in setting a realistic but ambitious goal for one student might not be effective for another student. 

FastBridge supports your goal-setting needs so that your goals are:

  • Data-informed
  • Meaningful; and
  • Realistic
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