Target Setting Guide: General Considerations


Beyond Federal requirements and OSEP guidance regarding baselines, several general considerations may be useful for stakeholders when reviewing or resetting baselines. A baseline serves as a starting point and should be used to establish targets based on the amount of growth that is expected each year. When a state compares baseline data to data collected at later points in time, it informs the state if it is making progress.

Reasons to reset the baseline may include changes to the following:

  • State data collection tools, methods, or data source
  • The indicator measurement required by OSEP
  • The population served, such as state eligibility criteria changes
  • Substantial improvements in a state’s data quality


Beyond Federal requirements and OSEP guidance regarding target setting, several general considerations may be useful for stakeholders when setting targets. This includes the impact of data quality on setting targets, necessary information to review, notable changes to acknowledge, and other information that could be useful to consider.

Data Quality Issues Impacting Target Setting

  • Determine if there are issues and ensure data for the indicator are high-quality. Consider factors such as data completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and relevance
  • Identify if activities implemented to facilitate the collection of high-quality data have been effective (e.g., training to address reporting requirements, checking and validating data entry, and ensuring that the right people are collecting the right data)

Necessary Information for Target Setting

Collect the following information:

  • Prior APRs to identify baseline data, the year it was set, targets previously established and the results.
  • Trends in performance over the last 3 to 5 years, minimally.
  • Trends in performance relative to targets.
  • Baseline data, including any changes that might have been made.
  • Analyses or reasons for meeting or not meeting previous targets.
  • Information on how targets were previously calculated and determined with stakeholders.

System Changes Important for Target Setting

  • Consider if changes have been made, such as in data collections methods, analysis, and reporting.
  • Take into account overall state initiatives that might impact state performance and targets on APR indicators (e.g., look at scope and implementation status of these initiative(s) and expected impacts).
  • Consider fiscal/economic climate of the state and its impact on performance and targets.
  • Take note of the impact of any natural disasters, such as weather and health emergencies, including pandemics such as COVID-19 and the impact on performance and targets.

Published June 2021.