Ask almost any Special Education Advocate, and they’ll tell you that Present Levels is the most important section of the IEP.

Present Levels has several corresponding Special Education Acronyms, depending on what your school or state uses.

PLPresent Levels
PLOPPresent Levels of Performance
PLPPresent Levels of Performance
PLAAFP Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance

The IEP process can be confusing and overwhelming. But I wholeheartedly believe that if parents would chunk it down and learn a few key sections, it would be much less frustrating.

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IEP Present Levels
IEP goals should be build upon the baselines in present levels.

Present Levels is one of those sections. (so is Prior Written Notice!)

IEP Present Levels

I call it Present Levels or PLOP, for Present Levels of Performance. You may hear it referred to by other names and abbreviations:

  • PLEP: Present Levels of Educational Performance (this is outdated and really shouldn’t be used)
  • PLAAFP: Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance
  • PLOP: for Present Levels of Performance

For as important as this section is, it actually gets very little fanfare in IDEA. Here is the exact wording.

section of IDEA describing the present levels section of the iep
IEP present levels

IDEA Definition of Present Levels

In other blog posts, I have referred to the 300+ page government booklet that discusses/defines IDEA. Not surprisingly, Present Levels is discussed and further defined.

I have included the full booklet below. Present Levels is discussed starting around page 127.

I point this out to you, not to bore you to death with my summer reading suggestion. But to point out that there is vigorous discussion about academic performance and functional performance.

This is important because I have heard from countless families who have been told, “IEPs are only for academics!” which is just not true.

snippet from IDEA federal register further explaining functional present levels
snippet from IDEA explaining the definition of function present levels
snippet from IDEA IEP laws

Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance

If that wasn’t enough, IDEA and the Federal Register booklet have gone on to say:

With respect to the meaning of “functional performance,” the Department of Education points to how the term is generally understood as referring to “skills or activities that are not considered academic or related to a child’s academic achievement.”

This term “is often used in the context of routine activities of everyday living.”

The reason that examples of functional skills were not included in IDEA was because “the range of functional skills is as varied as the individual needs of children with disabilities” (71 Fed. Reg. at 46661).

But we can understand that “routine activities of everyday living” refer to skills and activities of daily living skills such as:

  • dressing, eating, going to the bathroom;
  • social skills such as making friends and communicating with others;
  • behavior skills, such as knowing how to behave across a range of settings; and
  • mobility skills, such as walking, getting around, going up and down stairs.

The Most Important Section of the IEP

Ok, so it’s taken me over 400 words to get to my point.

Do you know what your IEP rights are?
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And my point is: This is the most important section of your child’s IEP.


This is the section that drives the IEP. The needs listed in present levels are what is used to develop goals. There should be solid, measurable baselines so that you have meaningful data that leads to meaningful progress monitoring.

All too often, I hear things from parents like, “I want my son in a social skills group, but they keep saying no.”

So I ask, “Are social skills listed as a need in Present Levels?”

“Well, no.”

And there’s your problem. The team is not going to develop goals to address anything that is not listed in Present Levels.

IEP Present Levels Examples

Here are some examples of present levels.

IEP Present Levels: Parental Input

If you have concerns about your child’s IEP, Present Levels is your starting point. If it is not complete, thorough and accurate, none of the rest of the IEP will be either.

Your child’s IEP goals will be developed based upon data and baselines that are in Present Levels. This is why it’s essential for parents to be participating in this portion of the process.

Before you submit that parent concerns letter prior to an IEP meeting, it’s essential that you review Present Levels.

Use the checklist to do a thorough review of your child’s Present Levels of Performance on their IEP.

What they “meant to say” in IDEA.

The Federal Register discussion booklet is basically a booklet that lawmakers wrote to explain “what they meant” for certain portions of IDEA. To find a topic, I find it easiest to use the control-F function of your computer.

The discussion about Present Levels starts around page 126-127.

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