The Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) is the bedrock of information that informs the discussions and decisions made by members of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team as they work together to develop the most appropriate services and supports for students who have a qualifying disability. The potential of this portion of the IEP to focus the team and help point to the most appropriate plan is enormous.

The PLAAFP should include the following:
• The student’s strengths, interests and preferences
• The area of concern and how it manifests academically and functionally
• How the disability impacts the student’s participation and ability to progress in the general education curriculum
• Objective data collected from testing, teacher observations, evaluations and information from IEP team members or others who know the student

A focused IEP is a much more useful document than one that lacks congruity and is laden with excessive or unrelated goals. It is often true that many goals and objectives can be written for a single student. The ability, however, to direct attention and resources to the most relevant needs the student has, in the vital context of the student’s strengths, interests and preferences, is what gives each goal the punch it needs to meaningfully support the student in his day-to-day academic and functional pursuits.

If a goal exists in the IEP that cannot be linked back to some portion of the PLAAFP, then either the PLAAFP is incomplete or the goal does not relate to what the team identified to be the most important areas of need the student has. Crosswalking each goal with the PLAAFP is a great way to check if the plan is focused and appropriate.

Although the term “academic” is fairly self-explanatory, the term “functional” is not as well understood. Functional achievement speaks to the age-appropriate activities in which a student engages that are not academic: dressing, eating, grooming, working, playing, socializing, etc. These are activities and skills that will facilitate the student’s success in actively contributing to and being a valued member of his or her community.

The PLAAFP is an opportunity. Careful consideration in its development and the commitment to use it to guide goal writing and the identification of other supports and services is invaluable in developing the most useful and effective IEP possible.

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