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One of the most important parts of writing a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) is accurately describing the student's current levels of educational performance. This blogpost is filled with helpful tips to do just that!

Definition of Present Levels in Special Education

Present Levels in special education can be referred to by many different names and acronyms:

PLAP – Present Levels of Academic Performance

PLAAFP – Present Levels of Academics and Functional Performance

PLAA – Present Levels of Academic Achievement

PLEP – Present Levels of Educational Performance

PLOP – Present Level of Performance

If this is already sounding a bit overwhelming – no worries. The Present Levels statement refers to the same section of the IEP regardless of the specific title.

What are Present Levels used for?

Present Levels of Performance are part of every Individualized Education Program (I.E.P.) in special education – it can be thought of as the foundation of the I.E.P.

This section of the IEP appears at the beginning and presents a full picture of the child, including strengths and areas of concern. This important information should include input and evidence from all key stakeholders (concerns of the parents or caregivers, related services, special education teacher, and any school personnel who is working with the child).

How Do I Write the Present Levels in an IEP?

When writing Present Levels, it's important to consider what the student can do academically, behaviorally, and socially compared to their typically-developing peers. This information can be gathered through formal and informal assessments, as well as observations.

If there's a specific area of concern (i.e.: why the IEP process was initiated), there needs to be data shared in the present levels section that reflect the student's current levels. This could be test data, results of the initial evaluation, or baseline data.


When describing a student's current levels of educational performance, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind:

  1. Provide as much detailed information as possible. Vague language will only serve to muddle the purpose of the IEP, which is to clearly articulate the student's needs and how they can best be met.
  2. Use objective measures wherever possible. If a student is struggling with reading comprehension, for example, cite specific assessment scores or percentiles rather than subjective observations (i.e.: Jennifer doesn't seem to understand anything she's reading!).
  3. Include information on the student's strengths and areas of interest. Knowing what a student excels at can be just as important as knowing what they struggle with when it comes to crafting an effective IEP.
  4. Additional information to consider: current status of functional skills, social skills, and academic areas; any statements of the student's progress if working with related services (i.e.: speech-language pathologist); the child's participation in the general education curriculum (noting any accommodations being provided); and any other relevant information that may be helpful when it's time to construct IEP goals and make impactful educational decisions.
What are present levels in special education? Here are helpful tips for writing Present Levels of Performance for IEPs.

Present Levels: Did You Include Enough Information?

One goal to keep in mind is that any member of the IEP team members should be able to read the child's present levels section and have a solid understanding of what's going well and areas of need. In fact, it's good practice to send home a copy of the present levels in draft form before the IEP meeting. Check with your school district on timelines.

Remember, the purpose of an IEP is to provide students with personalized educational programming that meets their individual needs. An accurate description of the student's current levels of educational performance is essential to meeting that goal.

Every section in the rest of the IEP should be directly aligned with the information on the student's educational needs described in the Present Levels. This means IEP goals, supplementary aids, and the decision on setting (least restrictive enviroment) should be supported by the important information provided.


If you've read this far, maybe now you're REALLY feeling pressured to get this right. That's understand, but please know that this is all VERY doable and there's a few things to make it a smooth process:

  1. Make yourself a cheat sheet of questions to answer or statements to include – you may want to see if your school or district has any guidelines of using a special format.
  2. The opening paragraph should include student information such as name and age, any noted medical concerns, and brief overview of school history (i.e.: attendance data).
  3. Have you already written one FANTASTIC present levels? Turn it into a reusable template! Please note: I'm definitely not suggesting a quick cut and paste, but instead turn it into a fill-in-the-blank document that you can use over and over again by adding customizable student information. This will save you so much time, plus make sure everything is included that will help your student.
  4. It's not all on YOUR shoulders! Think of yourself as a curator – you're gathering information and referencing reports from the family, general education teacher, and any related service provides (school psychologist, speech-language pathologist, etc.).

Looking to save time? There's a Present Levels of Performance template and exemplar included in the Special Educators Resource Room bundle – click here to check it out!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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