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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I attend a LOT of IEP meetings as part of my role as a special education coordinator. I am one of those weird special educators that love IEPs. Anyone else?

Whether you like them or not, it's part of the job, and being able to put together a well-structured IEP and run a good meeting takes some practice. One of the most important and most often rejected parts of the IEP is the Present Levels section. You may call it a PLAAFP or a PLOP, or even a PLEP, but it all means the same thing.

writing the present levels section of the IEP


This is the guiding force behind the IEP. If I pick up your student's IEP and read the Present Levels, I should know exactly what the student can do and where the student is still struggling and clearly understand why you wrote these goals.

A well-written Present Levels section of an IEP should explain exactly why a student receives special education services. It should guide the IEP goals and service pattern.

The Present Levels section must include the following components:

1. Student strengths (current data)

2. Student weaknesses (current data)

3. The student's academic, developmental and functional needs

4. How the student's disability impacts their access to general education

Present levels section: student strengths, student weaknesses, student needs, impact of the student's disability

Here are a few quick tips for improving the Present Levels section of your IEPs.

  • Make sure your PLAAFP is clear enough that if the student transferred to another school, there would be enough information to describe the student's needs just from reading the PLAAFP.

  • Use measurable terms. There should be nothing subjective in your PLAAFP. Give me the data!

  • Stay neutral. Make sure your statements about student weaknesses are stated in a neutral/positive way.

  • Include current baseline data from multiple sources, including curriculum-based assessments, observations, parent concerns, and information from other educators that work directly with the student.

  • Don't just change the numbers from the student's present levels last year. Remember, an IEP is to provide access to the general education curriculum, and those standards differ in each grade level.

  • Address the whole student, not just their ability in one specific, narrow skill. For example, your PLAAFP should never just be one sentence on how a student can solve addition with 40% accuracy. How did you get here? The PLAAFP should address any areas of need that a student has.

The next time you IEP and want to quickly throw together a PLAAFP so you can focus on the goals, I encourage you to pause and really think about the student's present levels. A poorly written PLAAFP will often cause you to set the starting point for a student to high or too low, but a well-written, thoroughly addressed PLAAFP will help you to develop appropriate goals and objectives.

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