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How to Read an IEP Present Level

If you need to learn how to read an IEP present level, this blog post is for you. Did you know that the present levels section of an IEP is filled with so much good information, but can also have some pitfalls? The present levels section of an IEP (also called the PLOP or PLAAFP) tells you exactly what you need to know about a student.

What are present levels?

After you’ve read the eligibility page, the next stop will likely be the present levels section. As the name suggests, the present levels section tells how a student is currently performing in a specific area. Areas could include things like math calculation, written expression, occupational therapy, articulation, behavior, etc. The present level section might also be called Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) or Present Levels of Performance (PLOP). Whatever your district calls it, this section will help you get a good understanding of a student.

What can you find in a present level?

A present level should have tons of information. When reading a present level, you should be able to get a good picture of the student. You should have understanding of the students strengths and weaknesses of that area, grades, scores, attendance, and more. A present level might also give you information on strategies that have worked (or not) with the student. A present level for an area might include:

  • Standardized Scores (academic, psychological, behavioral, adaptive, etc)
  • Formal classroom observation
  • Classroom grades and scores
  • Attendance
  • Parent Input
  • Baseline Data
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Classroom Performance
  • Functional Needs
  • Health Concerns
  • Successful and Unsuccessful Strategies
  • Student Input
  • Previous Goals and Progress

Things to Remember

When you are reading a present level there’s two important things to remember. First, that a present level is only indicative of a single point in time. When a present level is written, that shows how the student is performing at that exact moment. A present level from written in November will not show how the student is performing in February. Instead, you should check the progress updates for more up-to-date information.

Second, you have to remember that despite a teacher’s best intentions, biases can (and do) creep into present levels. Be extremely cautious of present levels that use all-or-nothing terminology. For instance, “Johnny always hits his classmates during recess” or “Susie never turns in morning work.” These types of statements can cause teachers who are receiving the student to panic and have a negative picture painted in their mind. Instead, ask yourself, is it likely that he is always hitting his classmates or is it more likely that he frequently hits his classmates? If you see a present level that seems to have a lot of negatives, remember that the teacher who wrote it could have a bias against the student. Don’t panic and be prepared to meet the child and family with an open mind.

Questions to Ask

As you read an IEP present levels section, keep these questions in mind:

  • What is the child able to do well? What does the child need additional support with?
  • How independent is the child in each skill?
  • Are there other students in my classroom (with or without IEPs) that have similar strengths and weaknesses?
  • What does the family (or child, if appropriate) indicate are areas of strength and concern?
  • How does attendance impact the student?
  • How has the child performed on standardized assessments?
  • Are there accommodations or supplementary aids that you think might be needed for the child?
  • What baseline data was collected on the student? How was that data used to develop IEP goals?
  • What will you need to do in the classroom to help support the student and work towards becoming more independent?


Reading a present level can be a treasure trove of important information. I like to read the present levels a few times, over a period of a couple weeks, to ensure I’m not missing anything. Be sure to look carefully at given information to ensure you aren’t making judgements about a child or his family before you’ve met them. When reading present levels for several children, find some similarities and differences between children to think about as you begin planning instruction.

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