Just as Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are vital to special education services, the PLAAFP forms the foundation of the IEP—the springboard for developing an appropriate educational plan to meet the unique needs of the student. The PLAAFP must include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including how the disability impacts the individual’s involvement and progress in the general education curriculum or participation in age-appropriate activities. Academic achievement generally refers to core content areas such as English language arts and math, while functional performance refers to abilities or activities related to daily living and vocational skills.

The PLAAFP must be based on data from multiple sources
  • Curriculum-based measures
  • Direct observations
  • Student work
  • Parent/family concerns
  • Information from related service providers

Identifying the student’s specific needs based on valid and reliable assessment data, including formal and informal assessments, supports the development of appropriate annual goals and short-term objectives. Viewing the PLAAFP statement as a baseline of a student’s performance results in more effective and measurable programming to address the student’s disabilities, and enables the school to show that the IEP resulted in meaningful educational benefit. For this reason, it is imperative that the voices of parents/guardians and related service providers be included in the development of a comprehensive PLAAFP statement. After all, the goal is for students not only to learn the skills but to be able to generalize them relative to varied settings and individuals in their daily lives—in and out of school. Related service personnel are more than consultants; they are critical members of the team and should be included to ensure the PLAAFP offers a comprehensive view of all of the student’s academic, social, sensory, motor and transition needs.

How should the PLAAFP statement be written?

The PLAAFP statement should be written using family-friendly language rather than professional terminology and jargon. Reporting academic data can be confusing for team members unfamiliar with educational assessment and its implications for programming. It is important to communicate this information in ways that engage families and support a shared understanding of the student’s strengths and needs. One way to accomplish this is to offer families a one-page, quick reference guide of frequently used terms and acronyms relevant to their child’s program, prior to an IEP meeting. Another strategy for ensuring the language in the PLAAFP statement is accessible to students and families is to have a team member ask a colleague to read the statement, omitting the student’s name, and see if he/she can easily interpret the assessment data, identify family and related service provider input, and identify the student’s strengths and needs based on the information provided.

An effective PLAAFP statement will clearly identify the following student needs
  • Academic
  • Social
  • Mobility
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Sensory
  • Vocational
  • Transition

Once the team has determined that the student would benefit from special education services and/or support for any areas identified in the PLAAFP statement, corresponding annual goals must be developed for these areas. Teams should be cautious in the development of annual goals to ensure that goals are not written for areas of need that were not discussed in the PLAAFP. For example, if the team agreed that reading comprehension is an area of need, there should be an annual goal developed to address it. However, if there is an annual goal developed to address delays in sight-word reading but this need was not identified in the PLAAFP, then the annual goal should be removed or the PLAAFP statement would need to be revised to reflect the added goal. As part of the IEP process—and to avoid such discrepancies—a team member should record the specific student needs outlined in the PLAAFP statement and check them off as annual goals are developed.

About the Author
JoDell Heroux has over twenty years of public school teaching experience in self-contained and inclusive classroom settings. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Counseling and Special Education at Central Michigan University and the Director of Clinical Experiences for Special Education and the Graduate Coordinator. Her interests center around equity, inclusion and teacher preparation.