Effective IEP Meetings Part 2: PLAAFP

Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) is to me the most important and essential section of the IEP. The PLAAFP is the heart of an IEP, everything can be connected back to it. Make sure to include strengths as well as areas of need.
By Trish Geraghty
Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance (PLAAFP) is to me the most important and essential section of the IEP. The PLAAFP is the heart of an IEP, everything can be connected back to it. Make sure to include strengths as well as areas of need.

A strong PLAAFP makes all areas of the IEP easier to write. 

When you write the PLAAFP it needs to have enough detail about a student to pass the stranger test. Meaning, if someone read the PLAAFP they would know the student and be able to provide services. Focusing on strengths is important for creating ambitious goals and developing accommodations later, plus we all do better when operating from an area of strength. 

The IRIS Center clarifies what should be included in the PLAAFP as, “describes the student’s needs in an academic and/or functional skill area:

  • States the impact of the student’s disability on her involvement in the general education curriculum
  • Documents the student’s current levels of performance, which will serve as baseline data to measure her subsequent progress
  • Informs the annual goals and the appropriate special education services and supports required to meet those goals” (IRIS Center, 2021). 

In the PLAAFP be sure to include the specific areas of eligibility that you wrote in the Effect of Disability, strengthsneeds, and progress in the general education curriculum. For example:

Trish has a specific learning disability in basic reading which impacts her ability to decode unknown words. This impacts her progress in ELA, math, social studies, and science. Socially, Trish is reluctant to volunteer in ELA and can appear shy.  She is able to decode words with the following syllable types with 90% or better accuracy: short (can), long (go), and consonant e (cane). During reading, Trish recently started to work on r-controlled vowels and vowel teams. She is doing well with the new instruction and is able to generalize prior learning to new situations through the syllabication and spelling rules/patterns. Her ability to generalize and use strategies across settings and content areas is a strength that should be highlighted and used. Trish will continue to need specialized instruction for decoding unknown multisyllabic words. She is able to decode and read 5/10 words with three or more syllables. Trish’s teacher reports she does well in class but can be hesitant to participate during ELA. She will participate if prompted but should not be called on to read aloud. She demonstrates mastery in most grade-level standards except reading decoding and comprehension. Trish requires additional time and use of strategies for comprehension on tests and assignments. Her teacher states that Trish can sometimes become fatigued or frustrated by the work. She is easily redirected once given a break. Her reading skills have a minimal impact in the other content areas when accommodations are used to support her reading decoding. In the classroom, Trish uses recorded passages for social studies and science, partner readers (set up prior to assignment), and teacher reads. 

Based on this short example from above, I would be able to write a goal for this student, determine service times, and develop accommodations. When you are using the stranger test ask yourself this question, “Do I have enough information to instruct this student tomorrow?” If not, go back to the PLAAFP and add the needed information. 

Want to read more?


IRIS Center. (n.d.). High-Quality PLAAFP Statements. What’s included in the IEP documents. https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/iep01/cresource/q3/p06/

Trish Geraghty
Trish Geraghty currently serves as a director for school improvement and supports schools in the continuous improvement process. Prior to working in school improvement, Trish was a special education director for eight years in a large urban school district. She received her Master’s Degree from Arizona State University in 2013 in Educational Leadership. She also holds two additional Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Phoenix. Literacy instruction, data analysis, and Strengths-based leadership are areas of research and presentations Trish shares frequently with schools and their leadership teams. Trish was named teacher of the year by the Council for Exceptional Children in 2004 and a finalist for the Rodel Teacher of the Year in 2010. She has educational experience at the elementary, secondary, and university level. To contact Trish, please email trishkgeraghty@gmail.com.

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