The Present Level of Performance of What?

by Tracy English, Project Specialist

IDEA makes clear the mandate that transition planning be based on present levels of performance (PLP) as well as on a student's needs, preferences and interests. However, because school professionals typically view the school's role as an academic one, PLP sections of the IEP are often comprised of reading, math and ability levels.

Since the publication of Will's (1994) definition of transition, which focused on moving "from school to employment," the parameters of comprehensive transition planning have broadened considerably beyond the traditional academic realm to include increasingly diverse outcomes. In fact, Halpern's (1984) widely accepted definition of transition as a change in status from behaving primarily as a student to assuming emergent roles in the community, suggests the need to conduct transition planning in a way that considers all aspects of adult life.

Transition service providers face a significant challenge. This challenge is to identify and assess critical areas of transition service needs including instruction, community experiences, employment and other post-school objectives and generate, from that assessment, the kind of information needed to assist students in making the transition to living, working, and educational environments.

Deciding what to assess and how to collect and use data in the IEP are important steps in establishing meaningful post-school outcomes for all students. The following suggestions for what to assess as well as recommendations of formal and informal assessment techniques may be of interest to the "best practice" transition service provider.

Suggested Transition Assessment Domains:
  • Employment

  • Daily Living

  • Further Education

  • Leisure Activities

  • Health

  • Communication

  • Community Participation

  • Self-determination

  • Interpersonal Relationship

(For an expanded description of these domains see the Tran-sition Planning Inventory, Clark and Patton, 1997.)

A Sampling of Available Assessment Procedures:
  • Learning Style Inventories

  • Personal future planning activities

  • Structured interviews with students

  • Structured interviews with parents, guardians, advocates and peers

  • Rating scales of employability, independent living and social skills

  • Structured situational assessments in home, community and work settings

  • Standardized transition knowledge and skill inventories

As a way to manage all this information, teams should consider developing an Individualized Transition Portfolio. A transition portfolio may provide an effective means of summarizing ongoing assessment information about a student's needs, preferences, and interests, and the present levels of performance he or she demonstrates at critical planning stages. In addition, this individualized portfolio might serve as a vehicle for communicating with students and provide a starting point for planning and developing IEP's. Schools may also find it a helpful compliance tool when documenting efforts to "take[ing] into account the student's preferences and interests..."(IDEA)

It is essential to view assessment as a critical component of the transition planning process and as an integral part of the ongoing assessment effort for all students (Sitlington, 1996). For further information on transition assessment techniques you may contact your T/TAC William and Mary Transition Specialist, Tracy English at (757) 221-1708.


Halpern, A.S. (1994). The transition of youth with disabilities to adult life: A position statement of the DCDT. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 17, 115-124.

Will, M. (1984). OSERS programming for the transition of youth with disabilities: Bridges from school to working life. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Clark, G., Patton, J. (1997). Transition Planning Inventory. Austin, TX, Pro-Ed.

Sitlington, P., Newbert, D., Begun, W., Lombard, R., Leconte, P. Assess for Success: Handbook on Transition Assessment. Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children.