Education Law and the IEP: What is Present Level of Performance in Virginia?


When your child is struggling in school it can be incredibly difficult for both them and for you, the parent. Special education is intended to help your struggling child, however the special education arena brings with it a new set of challenges. To ensure that your child’s needs are met a team will be formed, which will include you, the parent. This team will develop your child’s Individualized Education Plan, or IEP for short.

Two sections in the IEP that parents and educators both focus on are the goals, and the accommodations. While the value of these sections cannot be measured, their true value comes in once the IEP has been developed. The section that matters the most for actually developing the IEP is the Present Level of Performance. Unfortunately due to the pressures of only having a limited time in the meeting to develop the IEP, which can become rather voluminous, the Present Level of Performance is often the section that ends up the victim of the time constraints.

A strong Present Level of Performance will make the rest of the IEP move along much smoother. It is like the practice before the big game. A little bit of extra preparation to save time and effort for later on.

The Present Level of Performance is the section that is intended to be used in developing the necessary goals and accommodations for your child. It should be used as a starting point in order to be able to accurately measure the growth that your child actually makes over the course of the marking period, semester, or school year. In order to be able to use the Present Level of Performance in this manner it must have specific facts and measurements that accurately reflect the needs and strengths of your child.

A general statement such as your child is struggling with equations is not enough detail for a good Present Level of Performance. With that type of statement how can an appropriate goal be developed? With that type of information all that can accurately be said is that your child needs to do better with equations, but how do you measure completion of that goal? There are many more questions that need answers that should be in the Present Level of Performance. Questions such as: how much are they struggling? What types of equations? Is there a specific step in the process that they are not succeeding with? Are they able to show success on small assignments? The Present Level of Performance needs to go into what exactly requires the attention and help, and not just the broad stoke of the topic or subject area.

Without clear statements and information in the Present Level of Performance there is no way to accurately determine if your child has met their goals. It would like knowing you need to run 20 yards, knowing you ended on yard marker 32, but not knowing where you actually started. In that case maybe you ran the 20 yards, or maybe you just ran 2. Without knowing where they are starting, an accurate assessment of if they met the goals in the IEP cannot occur.

The Present Level of Performance also determines exactly what goals are necessary. Based on the data the team has in the Present Level of Performance they will determine what subjects and areas need to have goals within the IEP. Without full and accurate information in the Present Level of Performance goals could end up not being included that should be, or the wrong goals being created. The Present Level of Performance is supposed to include both your child’s weaknesses and their strengths. A simple statement such as they have a strength in chemistry can be misleading. While chemistry could be a strength relative to your child’s other areas, it could still be below grade level and require goals to be built around it in order to assist your child perform better.

Being able to have a strong Present Level of Performance requires that all team members come to the table having done their fair share of preparation. The most valuable sources of information in the IEP meetings will be the special education teacher as well as any other of your child’s teachers that are on the team because they will have the most information on what level you child is performing on. The teachers may initially be rather quiet, so questions about how your child is doing should be directed specifically to them, in a friendly and respectful manner.

All the team members at the meetings want what is best for your child, but sometimes it takes some negotiations and discussion to get onto the same page as to what is actually the best for your child. Both sides need to be willing to do their preparation and to listen to each other.

If you have questions regarding special education or IEPs, please contact us at 804-423-1382 or email us at to set up an initial consultation with one of our attorneys or parent advocates.