Understanding Present Level of Performance (PLOP)

What It Means in an IEP

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How is the present level of performance (PLOP) defined? Learn more about the significance of this section of your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with this review.

Definition of PLOP (Present Level of Performance)

Also known as the PLP or the present level of academic and functional performance (PLAAFP), the present level of performance is the portion of your child's IEP that details how he is doing academically at the moment. 

An assessment which should be done freshly and thoroughly each year, a PLOP should include a detailed description of your child's current abilities and skills, with attention to his weakness and strengths and how these will affect his education.

In addition to academic concerns (intellectual functioning), the PLOP looks at a child's current physical condition, including the status of any disabilities and mobility status, and social performance ranging from relationships with adults and other children to the development of skills which will be needed for independence.

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 he should go? That said, the PLOP is often neglected or too vague to be helpful in the way it is designed to be. 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 areas. This can be determined 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 his current ability.

While sometimes given less prominence in the report, a parent's concerns about how to enhance their child's education is an essential portion of a good PLOP.

Overall, the PLOP is a very important step in describing a child's academic, physical, and social needs which will need to 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, and if you disagree with what the professionals are saying—whether they're undervaluing your child's abilities or overestimating them—make sure that 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. That's because such outbursts can have consequences for your child and the other children in the classroom.

Asking Questions About Current Performance Level

You should also 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. For example, instead of stating that a child is not reading at his current grade level, it should describe specific difficulties. Instead of vaguely stating that a child has poor writing skills, it should list out what skills need improvement, for example, whether the child has problems with punctuation, spelling (along with a grade level estimate), or sentence structure.

PLOP is the base on which goals are built, and if you can't understand it, 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 talk the talk and translate it for you. You should also consider consulting with members of local parent advocacy groups, who may be able to coach you to do the same.

You want to be able to trust your IEP team, certainly. 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 to enter into an unnecessary conflict with your child's team of educators, your top priority is to your child. Speak up and ask questions when you think it's important to do so.

If you are having problems with communication, take a moment to review special education parent rights. Most of the time, misunderstandings and conflict can be addressed with good communication. We have a few tips for fighting problems with a child's special education program that can be helpful in resolving common problems.

If you are simply 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.

Bottom Line

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 parents 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. 2006.

  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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