Understanding the Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance (PLA&FP)

This is the second part of our series of what happens in an IEP meeting. I remember going to the first IEP meeting for our daughter.  I had attended a training about what happens in IEP meetings but I still felt lost and nervous about the first meeting.

Before we go into the PLA&FP, I want to make sure we go over some other processes that will happen before or during the meeting.

  1.  When you are invited to the IEP meeting you can ask the teachers to provide you with a copy of the draft of the IEP. These days, most school districts will have software that will allow the teachers to develop a draft IEP before the meeting. This is a tool that allows the team to add, modify and delete things that the team wants with relative speed and accuracy making the final IEP faster to develop and since it is on a computer easier to read and share.
  2. Prior to any IEP meeting I would ask  for a copy of the IEP so that I would have time to go over the document, compare what I have from last year’s IEP and see what the team is proposing for the coming year. It would help me prepare for the meeting.
  3. Prepare a list of question you might have for the teachers, therapists or any other school personnel you might have.
  4. Remember you can bring someone with you to the meeting. A friend, a sitter, someone who knows your child. Just let the school know so they are prepared for them.

Start the MeetingIEP meeting

Once you are sitting in the meeting, one of the first things you should do is find out who is in the meeting. Usually introductions are made and a signature sheet for participation is passed around so everyone has a chance to sign.

If there is anyone new or that you don’t know, ask them who they are and what role they play in the meeting. It is not unusual to not know who the school administrator is and that is why you can ask them if they know your child, if they have met them, etc.

During this part of the meeting is where you can decide to continue or postpone the meeting based on the people who have attended.

Remember from the last article,(I’ve been invited to an IEP, what do I do?) we stated that all IEP team member who were invited should be in attendance unless they had sent you, the parent, a letter in writing and you had agreed to their absence before the meeting.

Reading of the PLA&FP

The first part of the meeting will then start with the Special Ed teacher or the moderator of the meeting reading to all the Present Levels of academic and functional performance. I call this the “let’s rip my heart out won’t you” part of the meeting. Why? Because this is where they tell you all the things you kid cannot do compared to a typically developing peer.  But this is not all bad. Here is where we as parents want to listen and see if the child that the write-up is describing matches the child we have at home. However, if you received a copy of the IEP before the meeting you will have heard this information and be prepared to ask questions should this not look like the child you have at home. Additionally, you can ask where they got their information if it is not accurate. Also, you can ask to add any information you think might be helpful to the team.  One of the trainers I worked with called this the starting point to our academic trip; we need to know where we are so we know where we are going.

What else might the team examine?

The team will want to know as much about your child as possible so some of the things they will look at is how the disability affects their involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. Why? Because we need to remember that your child, is first and foremost a general education student who receives special education services to help them access their education.

The team might also look at data from other sources like:

  • readingLast year’s IEP
  • New assessments done during the year
  • Performance on district and statewide assessments
  • Any new skills the student has attained both academic and functional in relation to grade-level standards
  • Grades and classroom work
  • Behavior data from classroom and school wide including playground, cafeteria, bus and others.
  • Input from the parents
  • Input from the student

Question the team might ask?

The team will want to know where the child is when compared to children who are the same age as your child or in the same grade. This will give us the road map for the program the team is developing. The team wants the best picture possible.  The team may want to know?

  • How does the disability affect the child’s learning?
  • What is the academic level at which they perform?
  • What is the functional level at which they perform?
  • What strategies or accommodations have been successful for this student’s learning
  • Has any technology been used with this student?
  • What are the grade-level academic standards for this student and how do the student skills compare to those standards?
  • Is there any other information

All of this information will be documented and the team will take it into consideration when developing the goals for the IEP.

What areas is the IEP team looking at during the PLA&FP?

Since the PLA&FP will give us a picture of where the student is at this specific time, the team will also need to consider other areas that may be affected by his or her disability. The team may also ask or consider:

  • Academic
  • Communication – speech both receptive and language
  • General cognitive ability
  • Health
  • Motor or physical abilities or impairments
  • Sensory – vision and hearing
  • Social and emotional
  • Transition – (from pre-school to elementary, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school, or even a new teacher or new school)
  • SPED CLASSROOM

At the end of this section you want to know that the information contained in the PLA&FP is a brief, clear, specific and accurate statement with enough information so that the team can develop annual goals, accommodations, modifications and other IEP services your student would need to work toward his or her academic success.


In the upcoming posts we will go into detail on the following:

Parts of an IEP according to IDEA:

  • A statement of Measurable Annual Goals
  • A description of progress towards annual goals – both academic and functional
  • A statement of special education and Related Services as well as supplementary aids and services
  • A statement of the extent , if any, to which the child will participation with non-disabled peers
  • A statement of individual accommodations including participation in district and state-wide testing
  • Transition services & Age of majority
  • A projected date for the beginning of services including frequency, location and duration of those services.

Feel free to send me your questions or comments.

Luz Adriana

My name is Luz Adriana Martinez and for the past 27 years I have been working in the field of advocacy for children with disabilities. I hold an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a BA from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. I'm married to a great guy, Tito, an Army Veteran of 22 years, who supports all the crazy things I do. Being an Army wife also prepared us to be always on the move and without daddy for long periods of time. This also gave me the opportunity work and volunteer with organizations whose mission was to assist other military families. This blog results from my desire to give back to the many families that have given me and mine so much. I have had the fortune to be able to travel the world assisting military families and now that that stage of my life is over, I want to continue to share what I have learned in the hopes that I can still provide some information and resources to families who need it.

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Thanks for the comment. Anything else we should be talking about?