Understanding Present Level of Performance (PLOP)

What It Means in an IEP

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When is comes to your child's IEP, one of the most important elements is the portion called present level of performance (PLOP), which details how your child is doing academically at the moment. This assessment is sometimes abbreviated as PLP or called present level of academic and functional performance (PLAAFP).

PLOP should be conducted each year and include a detailed description of your child's current abilities and skills, with attention given to their weaknesses and strengths and how these characteristics will impact their education.

In addition to academic concerns or intellectual functioning, PLOP also looks at a child's current physical condition, including their mobility status and any disabilities they may have. Social performance is also evaluated, including your child's relationships with other adults and children. It also identifies skill development that they will need for independence.

Here's what you need to know about PLOP and how it benefits your child.

Why the PLOP Is Important

An accurate and complete PLOP is essential for determining appropriate goals for your child. After all, if you and your child's teachers can't agree on where a child is starting from, how can you determine where they should go? That said, the PLOP is often neglected or too vague to be helpful in the way it was designed to be. For instance, a notation of "as is" is unacceptable.

The people involved in your child's special education, such as teachers and therapists, should contribute their observations about your student's performance level in academic and non-academic settings. This information can be ascertained by a portfolio of your student's activities and notes about your student's interpersonal skills. Also, test scores should be included as appropriate to further document their current abilities.

While sometimes given less prominence in the report, a parent's concerns about how to enhance their child's education is an essential part of a good PLOP. Overall, the PLOP is a very important step in describing a child's academic, physical, and social needs that will be addressed in special education during the current year.

Discussing the PLOP

There should be some discussion of your child's PLOP at the IEP meeting. If you disagree with what the professionals are saying—whether they're undervaluing your child's abilities or overestimating them—make sure your point of view is included in the IEP as well. Don't be afraid to raise objections to goals that do not take the PLOP into account. 

For example, if your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and blurts out answers in class, you can object to the goals of the IEP if they don't address correcting such behavior. These outbursts can have consequences for your child and the other children in the classroom, so it's definitely a factor that should be addressed in the IEP.

Asking Questions

You also should feel free to question any scores or findings you don't understand. Professionals sometimes rattle off numbers in a way that's hard for parents to follow, but it's important that you understand this information in layman's terms.

The information on the PLOP should be very specific and measurable. Instead of stating that a child is not reading at their current grade level, it should describe specific difficulties and how those difficulties will be addressed in measurable ways.

For instance, if a child has poor writing skills, the plan should list what skills need improvement. So, if your child has problems with punctuation, spelling, or sentence structure, the IEP should contain details on how those issues will be addressed, along with a grade-level estimate for their abilities and what they hope to accomplish.

PLOP is the basis on which goals are built, and if you can't understand that portion of the IEP, you can't be sure whether the goals are right for your child.

It may be helpful to bring a professional advocate along who can help you make sense of things. You also should consider consulting with a local parent advocacy group, who may be able to coach you on the process and what to look for.

Certainly, you want to be able to trust your IEP team. But trusting them doesn't mean that you shouldn't verify the goals and objectives they include on your child's educational plan. After all, teachers, counselors, and other school personnel are often overworked and may inadvertently overlook issues concerning your child that need to be addressed. 

Coping With Conflicts and Grievances

While you certainly don't want unnecessary conflict with your child's team of educators, your top priority is your child. Speak up and ask questions when you think it's important to do so.

If you're having problems with communication, take a moment to review your special education parent rights. Most of the time, misunderstandings and conflict can be addressed with good communication.

If you are still not making any headway, don't give up. If you seem to be at a crossroads, take a moment to learn how to report an IEP violation, such as an inadequate PLOP, or consider getting an advocate to help you manage the situation.

A Word From Verywell

An accurate understanding of PLOP is essential in setting goals for your child, and these goals ultimately help your child's teachers and you as a parent maximize your child's educational experience. While often neglected or vague, these documents should be very specific and include not only academic achievement but functional performance. Don't be afraid to speak up for your child when needed, and never underestimate your importance in your child's education.

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  1. National Center for Learning Disabilities. IDEA parent guide.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Sec. 300.320 Definition of individualized education program. Updated July 2017.

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