When I was a special education teacher, and I had to start drafting a new IEP, the first section I completed was the Present Educational Levels. That is because, in my humble opinion, the Present Educational Levels section is the most important section of an IEP. The content of this section will determine: Educational goals; necessary accommodations; types of services (speech; OT; etc.); frequency of services; teaching strategies; Extended School Year (ESY) eligibility; and educational placement, to name a few. Therefore, it is essential that appropriate, detailed information be contained within this section of the IEP. It is also essential that the information be written with the student’s daily and substitute teachers in mind. I used to tell my staff, “If you are out sick, and I have to walk into your class and teach for the first time, I should be able to pick up each student’s IEP, and read about what they need to learn, and how they learn best”. I do not want to pick up a student’s IEP, and read about their T score, and why they qualify for services.
For me to effectively explain the point I outlined in the previous paragraph, picture your favorite book (or movie) that later came out with a sequel. Simply put, while the stories are related, each has its own unique script. Put another way, you don’t buy the second book to reread the exact same passages from the first book. If for some reason, you need to refresh your memory on what was said in the first book, you can always reread the part of the first book necessary to refresh your memory. That is because the first book does not disappear from existence after the second book has been published.
The same can be said for the (Re) Evaluation Report, and the IEP. In most cases, the (Re) Evaluation Report is written first (initial book), followed by a new or revised IEP (sequel). Although the two documents are related, in as much as the contents of the IEP are determined by what is in the (Re) Evaluation Report, I do not need to reread paragraphs that were cut and pasted from the (Re) Evaluation Report, into the IEP. If I forget an important point the psychologist made in his/her report, I can reread the (Re) Evaluation Report at any time, because it does not disappear after the IEP has been rewritten. Instead, when I read the IEP, what I am interested in reading is “given the students educational profile (academic strengths and needs), what do they need to learn, and what is the best way (strategies) to teach them”?
This may seem like an overly simple concept. However, I can tell you unequivocally, based upon my over 20 years of experience working in the public education system, special education teachers cut and paste paragraphs from the (Re) Evaluation Report into the IEP most the time. The length of the statement they are copying may vary greatly, but the time saving tendency exists widely throughout the educational system. Therefore, when you are participating in your child’s IEP meeting, and/or reviewing their proposed IEP document, here is a list of suggested information that you might consider being included in the Present Educational Levels.
Present levels of academic achievement – Describe how the student is progressing within the general education curriculum (Reading, math, and writing) in relation to his/her peers and state-approved grade level standards. Include: current instructional levels; description of permanent products and work completion; classroom strategies or interventions applied and their results; and a description of any additional or alternative instructional materials, instructional time or personnel. (e.g., most recent evaluation of the student, results of formative assessments, curriculum based assessments, transition assessments, progress toward current goals)
Present levels of functional performance – Functional performance is related to activities of daily living, such as hygiene, dressing, basic consumer skills, community-based instruction, etc. Functional performance may also be defined as the ability to access public transportation, social/emotional learning skills or behavioral difficulties, and the consideration of personal safety and socially appropriate behavior. Include formal/informal test results that demonstrate current developmental functional levels and strengths and needs. If applicable, the information from a functional behavioral assessment should be included in this section. Information included in this section should include performance data and current skill levels, not just a description of academic and behavioral deficits. If the student has no measurable deficit in this area, the IEP team could write, “the student’s functional performance in all areas is age appropriate”.
Present levels related to current post secondary transition goals (if the student is transition age) – Provide a description of the student’s current Academic Achievement and Functional Performance based on age appropriate vocational assessments related to the student’s targeted post secondary goals (e.g. SATs, interest inventories, vocational evaluations, career surveys, results of formative assessments, curriculum-based assessments, progress toward current goals).
Parental concerns for enhancing the education of the student – A discussion about the parents’ concerns for enhancing their child’s education is to take place during the IEP Team meeting. The results of that discussion are documented in this section of the IEP.
How the student’s disability affects involvement and progress in the general education curriculum – The IEP team must determine, based upon appropriate assessments, how the student will access, be involved in, and make progress in the general education curriculum. Include statements about the student’s progress in the general education curriculum, and what modifications, adaptations, and support services are provided. The information should be clear enough to demonstrate the need for the continuation, elimination, or additional support and services in the student’s IEP. Information in this section will drive the development of the supports and services in the IEP. Reference to the MD Academic Standards may be written in this section.
Strengths – Describe and list what the student does well.
Academic, developmental, and functional needs related to student’s disability – Describe the specific needs of the student related to the student’s disability (don’t describe reading if they only have a math disability) and how the disability may make involvement and progress in the general education curriculum and in all grade level standards challenging. This section will also describe kinds of specialized support and service that are necessary for the student to access and make progress in the general education curriculum in the regular education class.
Social/emotional needs Behaviors that impede learning – When behavior is determined to be a special consideration, the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), and all of the ABC data (Behavior of concern; Antecedant that triggers the beghavior; Consequence the student is trying to earn/avoid by demonstrating the behavior; and the positive Consequence a student will work for when trying to eliminate the behavior), should be included here.
All needs included by the IEP team in the Present Educational Levels section must be addressed in the remainder of the IEP.
As previously stated, Information in this section will drive the specifics included in the remainder of the IEP.