Differentiated Goal Writing: Tiered Targets

Approaches to Writing Differentiated Goals

Student Growth Goals (also referred to as Growth Targets) are detailed, measurable goals for student learning and growth developed collaboratively by educators and their evaluators.  They are based on student learning needs identified by a review of students’ baseline skills.  The goals are aligned to course standards and measure learning in the big ideas and essential skills of the class or course.  The goals are rigorous, yet realistic targets of student learning.

There are many approaches to setting student growth goals (or growth targets).  Choosing your method of writing the target is partly personal preference and partly an exercise in critical analysis of the unique students on your roster.  This document highlights the tiered method of growth goal writing.

Whole Group Goals

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The whole group method is when teachers are writing one goal applied every student on the roster.   It is quite different from the tiered goal as there is no differentiation.  The whole group growth goal is the simplest way to write a growth target.  These goals are set by deciding how much growth is expected of students and then adding that amount to student ALL pre-test scores.  These targets often state large generalizations of growth and learning that would then be applied to all students. For example: All students will grow by 20%, or All students will move one level on the writing rubric.  Because of the unique nature of the individual student, there is some concern that this may not allow appropriate goals for all students on that teacher’s roster.

Tiered Growth Goals

Tiered targets are created by grouping students together based on pre assessment (baseline) scores.  Teachers should divide students into 3 or more categories or tiers.  Then, teachers will identify growth expectations for each tier and apply them to each student in that tier.  

Notice that using this method, all students have growth targets they are expected to reach, but the teacher does not calculate the targets based on a formula applied to the whole roster.  Instead the teacher sets growth targets based on the amount of learning expected during the instructional interval for that specific category of students.  

When setting a target of either a minimum expectation or points gained, teachers will use their knowledge of the curriculum, current student data and performance as well as historical student performance to determine targets.  

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Teachers may have a single formula applied to each tier (ex: See figure 2), or teachers may set a minimum expected score for each tier (ex: See figure 3).

ADVANCED Tiered Growth Goals


Advanced Tiered Growth Goals are much like the Tiered Growth Goals in that they are created by grouping students based on baseline results.  However, this method attempts to take into consideration the fact that students earning similar scores just above or just below the cut-off points between tiers may be held to very different growth expectations.  Thus, this method combines a constant target and a variable target.  The goal expectation is that the student reaches whichever target is greater of the two.


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Download Our Handout explaining Tiered Goals in more depth.

Anne Weerda
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Anne Weerda

This article was written by Kids at the Core founder, Anne Weerda.

Anne is an assessment and curriculum specialist best known for her work in assessment design, data analysis and instructional effectiveness. Anne is a sought after speaker in the area of assessment design, curriculum and instruction.
Anne Weerda
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