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Special Education (IEP / 504)

Understanding the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance statement (PLAAFP)

A student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team expects special education services to help the student meet their unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living.

As a foundation for higher achievement and IEP goals, the IEP team will identify:

  • The child’s current levels of learning or performance
  • The effect or impact of the child’s disability on learning

This process can be compared to planning a trip to another city: You need to know where you are beginning as well what may make your trip more challenging. The team will see where your child is beginning and how the disability impacts learning.

Getting Started

The IEP team, including the parents, will ask these important questions at the annual IEP meeting:

  • What are the disability-related challenges affecting the student’s progress and participation in the general education curriculum?
  • At what academic and functional levels is the student performing right now? Where is the student’s starting point?
  • What strategies, accommodations, and assistive technology have already been successful for the student’s learning? Has the student had an assistive technology evaluation?
  • What are the grade-level academic standards for the student’s grade? How do the student’s skills compare to those standards?
  • Does the student behave and learn with age-appropriate developmental skills?
  • How does the student perform in non-school environments? (Information provided by family)
  • What does the student think is working or not working during the school day?
  • Is there any other information we need to provide a complete picture of the student?

The answers to these questions will be documented every year as the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) statement on the IEP. A student’s annual IEP will be the map guiding him or her from beginning levels of performance to higher levels of performance (IEP goals).

PLAAFP Phrases and Example Statements

The information in the PLAAFP section of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) should be written in brief, clear, specific, and accurate statements with enough information to describe the student’s current skill levels in objective, measurable terms.

For example:

Vague phrases Specific phrases
Is friendly and loves attention Greets peers appropriately for age level
Received a math score of 50 Can count to 25
Can’t talk well Speaks in one-or-two sentences
Knows different careers Can count five careers and five jobs associated with each
Difficulty reading third-grade materials Reads third-grade materials at 70 words per minute
Difficulty following classroom rules Follows classroom rules using visual cues
Spends a lot of time in suspension due to behavior problems When redirected becomes angry and disrupts class
Has a language difficulty and will have trouble meeting language arts standards Language impairment affects progress in grade-level standards that include words with multiple meanings
Seldom completes assignments Completes 25 percent of homework and turns in 10 percent of the assignment

Examples of PLAAFP statements:

  • Jason has a reading disability. He is in seventh grade and reads independently at a third-grade level. He has grade-level comprehension of materials read to him. Jason needs to improve his reading skills.
  • Lisa has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Her organizational skills are not well developed. She loses assignments and notes for her academic classes approximately 75 percent of the time and as a result comes to class without necessary materials. Due to these behaviors, Lisa is not able to complete grade-level work. Lisa needs instruction on organizational skills.
  • Angela is 10 years old but performs academically at a kindergarten level in reading and at a first-grade level in math. Although she benefits socially from being in mainstream classes, her class work in reading, math, science, and social studies needs to be modified. Angela needs to increase her academic skills.
  • Connor has Autism. His academic skills are above grade level, but his social and communication skills are more than two years behind those of his grade-level peers. Connor needs instruction to understand nonverbal social and communication cues.


These statements help the IEP team know at what levels the student is beginning and how the disability impacts learning and participation in the general education curriculum.

PLAAFP Areas of Consideration

The PLAAFP statement will give a snapshot of the student at a particular time and place. It will describe the levels at which the student is currently working academically and functionally. This includes a description of a student’s strengths and needs.

Areas the team will consider include:

  • Academic
  • Communication
  • Functional
  • General intelligence
  • Health
  • Motor or physical
  • Sensory (such as vision and hearing)
  • Social and emotional
  • Transition to postsecondary adult living (beginning in ninth grade)

PLAAFP Information Gathering

The PLAAFP statement will include information gathered from various sources including:

  • Ending levels of performance on last year’s goals
  • Any new special education assessment results
  • Performance on district and statewide assessments, including identification of skills and knowledge already attained in relation to academic grade-level standards
  • Classroom grades and observations, including behavior data
  • Information from the student and parents (you have important information to share about your child and you and school professionals may see your child in different ways in different environments and situations)
  • Interests and strengths, including non-curricular areas (these can provide valuable information about a student’s abilities, potential for learning, and possible motivators)
  • Any strategies, accommodations, or assistive technology devices or services that have already shown success

It is important to note that the student’s regular education teacher, a required member of the IEP team, is a key team member.

  • This teacher is familiar with grade-level and age-level expectations for all children so he or she will know how a student is doing on grade-level skills compared to peers.
  • The team will want to make sure that the designated regular education teacher brings the appropriate information to the IEP meeting. For example, an art teacher may be a child’s regular education teacher but may not be familiar with the child’s reading and math skills.
  • Depending on the time of year that the meeting is held, a regular education teacher for the next grade level may be the best source of regular education information needed for development of this IEP.
  • Other teachers may attend or submit written information as well.
    The information in the PLAAFP section of the IEP should be written in brief, clear, specific, and accurate statements with enough information to describe the student’s current skill levels in objective, measurable terms. If scores are reported, they should either be self-explanatory or explained.

The PLAAFP statement will lead to the development of annual goals, accommodations, modifications, and other IEP services. All IEP goals should be connected to the PLAAFP statement. Parents knowledgeable about the PLAAFP statement and the IEP process can be an effective part of the IEP team and help their child work toward higher achievement.