Think "Positive"! Creating Positive Present Level of Educational Performance (PLOP) Statements

The Present Level of Educational Performance (PLOP) section of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) "is a written description of the student's strengths, areas of concern and learning styles" (Virginia Department of Education, 1998, p. 14). The PLOP "should focus on what the student can do now and outline the unique needs of the student that must be met and supported" (Improving Special Education Experiences Project, 1998, p. 21). The PLOP sets the tone for the IEP process and product. Because the IEP team considers this information at the outset of an IEP meeting, it is important to phrase the information positively.

PLOP statements must include a description of how the student's disability affects the student's involvement and progress in the general curriculum ... [20 U.S.C. Section 1414 (d) (1) (A)]. They should describe the student's strengths, especially in areas of concern. A description of the student's functioning in all areas is no longer required. Only the areas impacted by the student's disability need to be included. PLOP statements should:

  • be positively stated (IEP Team Guide, 1999, p. 34)

    • sample words: well-groomed, goal-directed, adaptable, cooperative, well-mannered, consistent, attentive, spontaneous, animated

    • sample phrases: spells creatively, requires visual or auditory cues, follows one-step directions, is willing to try again, completes directions when they are repeated, requires transitions with preparation

  • represent student behaviors that can be seen, heard, measured, or counted

  • be specific, complete, accurate (IEP Team Guide, 1999, pp. 33-34), and current (within a year)

    • specific: "Jay multiplies two-digit numbers correctly 90% of the time using a calculator."

    • complete: "Elizabeth copies simple shapes (circles, squares, and triangles) with a crayon.

    • accurate: "When given the utensils, Darren can set up to four place settings at a table with minimal verbal prompting."

  • be based on current information gathered from a variety of sources, such as

    • portfolios of work

    • observations of classroom performance, behavior, and/or social interactions

    • test results, including standardized and authentic measures

    • interviews with parents, teachers, therapists, administrators, and/or the student

  • address academic areas (e.g., reading, math, oral communication, writing, vocational); non-academic areas (e.g., mobility, daily life skills, social/emotional, medical, sensory, adaptive behavior); and transition, if applicable

  • incorporate information about the student's learning style

  • describe techniques and/or materials that have proven effective or ineffective

Although there is great variability in the way PLOPs are written, consider the following guidelines to improve clarity.

  • Use a narrative style.

  • Use language that parents understand.

  • Begin with the student's strengths in the areas of concern and conclude with the needs.

  • Document each source of information, including the name of the tools used and assessment dates. For example,

    • from the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement, Revised, given on 9-7-00

    • based on a classroom observation of 10-11-00

  • Explain scores, ratings, and interview formats.

The following excerpts are included as examples of positively worded PLOP statements that focus on a student's area of concern.

Rita, age 10, with fine-motor concerns:

Rita is able to produce all upper- and lower- case manuscript letters of the alphabet at the rate of 15 letters per minute by using a model and self-correction skills (based on teacher interview and classroom observation on 11-16-00). Rita writes three-word sentences unassisted with great effort and limited clarity (based on a parent questionnaire and interview completed on 11-3-00). Rita reports that her hand hurts after five minutes of writing, and she wishes that she could make all the letters stay on the line and not pile up on each other (student interview completed on 11-13-00). She also says that using the computer for story writing in school is fun, and she gets her work done. Rita appears to learn handwriting through tracing a model and verbalizing the order of the strokes. Practice is most effective in short, intense segments with student self-evaluation of the written product. Rita needs to increase speed and legibility for manuscript handwriting.

Lance, age 14, with math calculation concerns:

Lance attends class regularly, attempts all in-class assignments, and completes homework assigned in math class. Mr. Lee, Lance's math teacher, reports that when Lance uses a calculator his computation accuracy is between 50 and 60 percent for most assignments. Without a calculator, his computation accuracy is 20 percent. Additionally, Mr. Lee reports that Lance is off-task as much as 60 percent of a class period (data chart, November 8-19). Using the Parental Checklist, Lance's father indicates that Lance brings home materials for assignments three out of five times a week and spends more than 1.5 hours on most math assignments. Lance scored at the 6.8 grade equivalent, with a standard score of 38, and at the 21st percentile on the math portion of the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement, Revised , administered on 9/15/00. Lance needs to learn basic math facts for all four processes.


Council for Exceptional Children. (1999). IEP team guide. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

Improving Special Education Experiences Project. (1998). Creating collaborative IEPs: A handbook. Richmond: Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Institute for Developmental Disabilities.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. P.L. 105-17. 20 U.S.C.

Virginia Department of Education. (1998). Individualized education program IEP process: The cornerstone of special education. Draft document. Richmond: Virginia Department of Education.

Date: November/December 2000