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Using PLAAFP to help your child work toward higher achievement

Written by  Staci J. Greenwald, Esq.

The “Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance,” or PLAAFP, is the first written statement in the IEP plan should document of a child’s ability and current achievement at the time the IEP is written.

This snapshot objectively documents the child’s present level of academic achievement, such as reading at a certain grade level, or performing certain mathematical calculations. Functional performance documents achievement that is not academic, including social skills, communication skills, and other activities of daily living.

Simply stated, PLAAFP should answer the question: What can this child do or not do right now?
Information and data for the PLAAFP statement is gathered through evaluation, classroom assessments and formal standards-based testing, along with the comments and observations of teachers, parents and other knowledgeable individuals. The team also assesses how the student stands in comparison to his or her peers.

At its most effective, PLAAFP assists educators and parents to set specific, measurable goals as an essential part of planning the program for the student. Then, from these specific goals, the IEP team can develop short-term benchmarks or objectives. These mileposts between where we are now and where we expect to be in 3 months, 6 months, or a year can help everyone get a good sense of who this child is and where he or she may realistically be expected to be one year from now.

Using short-term success metrics means that parents and teachers will not need to wait a year to determine that the child’s goals are not being met.

Parents should, however, realize that the IEP is not a performance contract between them and the teacher. Everyone’s hope and expectation is that the child will make significant and meaningful progress.

If one short-term goal is missed, it does not mean that the plan is not working. If goals are missed consistently, then clearly the plan isn’t working. If the child is not making progress, then the plan needs to be re-evaluated.

At this point, an independent expert can be called upon to assess the child’s needs, progress and weaknesses, accommodations in place or needed, and to advise on areas for modification or improvement.

Parents knowledgeable about the PLAAFP statement, and with a record of measurable outcomes, are in a stronger position to negotiate with the school district for change within the program or to consider other alternatives to help their child work toward higher achievement.