Special Education

Questions and Answers on Individualized Education Program (IEP) Development, The State's Model IEP Form and Related Documents

Present Levels of Performance and Individual Needs - Updated April 2011

The following questions and answers address some of the important issues raised by requests for clarification of the federal and State requirements for IEPs.  This document will periodically be updated.  This guidance does not impose any requirements beyond those required under applicable law and regulations.  This document supersedes any previously issued guidance on this topic.

If you have questions regarding the IEP form and related requirements, you may submit them to the following mailbox:  SEFORMS@mail.nysed.gov.

  1. Is it allowable to leave any part of the student’s present levels of performance sections of the IEP blank?
    No.  Section 200.4(b)(2)(i) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that the IEP report the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and indicate the individual needs of the student according to each of the four need areas, including how the student’s disability affects involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, or for preschool students, as appropriate, how the disability affects the student’s participation in appropriate activities.  If there are no individual needs related to one or more of the four need areas, the IEP could indicate that the student’s skills are within normal limits or that no disability-related needs were identified.
  2. Examples in the Present Levels of Performance/Evaluation Results section and other sections of the IEP use both complete sentences and phrases.  This format appears inconsistent?  Is it intentional?
    These are examples only intended to demonstrate that there are various ways to document information in a student's IEP.  A district has local discretion as to how it documents student-specific information.
  3. Should evaluation results (such as from State assessments) be kept from year to year in that section in the IEP (so that there is a running record of information)?  Is standardized testing/State assessment information required to be included in the Evaluation Results section of IEP?
    In developing the recommendations for the IEP, the Committee must consider the results of the initial or most recent individual evaluation of the student as well as the results of the student’s performance on any general State or district-wide assessment programs.  A district could, but is not required to, provide historical State assessment and/or individual evaluation results in a student’s IEP.
  4. Must the results for a student's New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) be documented in the IEP?
    No.  Regulations do not require that alternate assessment results be included in an IEP.  However, in developing recommendations for an IEP, the Committee must consider the academic, developmental and functional needs of the student, including, as appropriate, the results of the student’s performance on any general State or district-wide assessment program.  To the extent that the evaluation results from the NYSAA form the basis for present level of performance statements, they should be documented in the IEP.
  5. Should the IQ score be documented in the IEP?
    Whether a student’s IQ score and/or scores on subtests are deemed relevant assessment data that needs to be documented in the IEP is a Committee decision and should be based upon the individual student.
  6. On page 4 of the directions, under Evaluation Results it states that, "the following section of the IEP provides space for the Committee to document the evaluation results considered."  Please explain.
    Documentation of each student’s present levels of performance in the IEP must include consideration of the results of the initial or most recent individual evaluation of the student, as well as the results of the student’s performance on any general State or district-wide assessment programs.  The State's IEP form includes an Evaluation Results section as a place to document the results of evaluations that were conducted and considered in the development of the student’s IEP.  Alternately, the Committee could document its consideration of the evaluation and assessment results under the four need areas (academic achievement, functional performance and learning characteristics; social development; physical development; and management needs). There is no requirement that the specific names of the individual tests conducted to complete the initial evaluation or reevaluation of the student be indicated in the IEP. 
  7. Can districts put formalized/standardized evaluation or assessment results within the body of the academic, social or physical sections of the present levels of performance, or does that information have to be included in Evaluation Results section of the form?
    A Committee may choose to document evaluation results within each of the three areas (academic, social or physical sections) rather than within the Evaluation Results section of the form.  If the Committee chooses to do so, it is recommended that information on the form direct the reader to the academic, social and physical need sections of the IEP.
  8. If a student’s most current State assessment results are included in the IEP, would the IEP need to be amended when/if updated/revised State assessment results are received by the district?
    A change to a student’s State assessment results would not in and of itself require a review or revision to the student’s IEP. Section 200.4(f)(2) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that the IEP be reviewed and, as appropriate, revised, periodically but not less than annually to address any lack of expected progress towards the annual goals and in the general education curriculum; the results of any reevaluation and information about the student provided to, or by, the parents; the student’s anticipated needs; or other matters, including a student’s need for test accommodations and/or modifications and the student’s need for a particular device or service in order for the student to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  
  9. Is the intent of the Evaluation Results box to contain standardized scores, a narrative description of what that means and the implications for instruction?
    This section of the IEP is provided to assist the district in documenting its consideration of the evaluation results to ascertain the student's present levels of performance.  A Committee may choose, but is not required, to include standardized scores in this section of the IEP.  It may, as an alternative or in addition to standardized scores, provide a narrative description of the results.  The Committee must ensure that all sections of the IEP are clearly understood by the reader and that the instructional implications of the evaluation results are clear.
  10. In terms of best practice, should trainers be encouraging districts to separate or sort evaluation results by content/skill areas?
    The manner in which a school district documents its present level of performance statements in a student's IEP is at local discretion.  Examples could be provided to school districts to the extent they assist districts to organize the information in an IEP.
  11. The State IEP form requires documentation of the committee’s ‘consideration of student needs that are of concern to the parent’ in three of the Present Levels of Performance sections.  What does this mean?

    The State IEP form requires the Committee to identify the needs of the student relating to the three areas of present levels of performance, which includes consideration of the concerns of the parent for enhancing the education of their child as required by federal and State regulations.  This does not mean that the IEP must document every concern expressed and/or recommendation that the parent offers.  While the IEP does not necessarily require an explicit statement that a particular need area is of concern to the parent, documenting when a need area that will be addressed in the student’s IEP is an area of concern expressed by the parent will assist the district in documenting that it considered the parents’ concerns.  If a parent had no concerns related to his/her child’s disability-related needs or chose not to participate in the IEP development process, the Committee could, but is not required to, also indicate this on the IEP. 

    In the consideration (i.e., discussion and documentation) of a parent’s concerns, the Committee may reach a consensus that the parent’s expressed concerns are not appropriate to address in a student’s IEP. In this case, there would be no documentation of these concerns in the IEP. However, if, in consideration of the concerns of the parent, the Committee refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, educational placement of the student or the provision of FAPE to the student, this information must be included in the prior written notice provided to the parent.

    One example of how the needs of the student, including consideration of student needs that are of concern to the parent may be documented in an IEP can be found at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/formsnotices/IEP/directions.htm. 

    Following is another example. 

    Academic, developmental and functional needs of the student, including consideration of student needs that are of concern to the parent:
    • Reading decoding skills.
    • Self-correction strategies.
    • Self-regulatory skills to more appropriately handle distractions.
    • Techniques for coping with frustration, particularly with homework (concern of the parent).
    • Scheduling accommodations for fatigue (concern of the parent).
  12. How do districts properly document concerns of the parent when:
    • discussion with parent has occurred and there are no concerns of the parent in that area; or
    • contact with the parent has been attempted but no contact or discussion has occurred?
      Is it allowable in the above situations to leave the field blank or should something be written?  If a statement should be written, can you give an example for each of the above situations?

      A Committee can only consider the parents’ concerns if they have been shared by the parents at the meeting, in writing or through other communications.  If a parent had no concerns related to his/her child’s disability-related needs or chose not to participate in the IEP development process, the Committee could indicate this in the IEP.  While the example provided in guidance shows an IEP that provides an explicit statement regarding a parent’s concerns as a means to document this required consideration, there is no requirement that the IEP do so.  

      It is not appropriate to leave the field blank since the requirement is that the Committee document the present levels of performance and needs of the student. If a student doesn’t have needs to be addressed in the IEP related to one or more of the four need areas, then the form could state “not applicable” or “none.”

  13. What should be documented on the new IEP form regarding parent concerns if the parent is unable to be reached due to transient living situations or simply neglect of the attempted contact.  Similarly, what about children who are wards of the county/State?  Is there a "blanket statement" to indicate attempts at parental contact?
    As stated above, a Committee can only consider concerns if they have been shared by the parents at the meeting, in writing or through other communications.  However, each school district must take steps to provide parents with a meaningful opportunity to participate in meetings for their child.   For students who require a surrogate parent (see section 200.5(n) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education), the surrogate parent’s concerns for the education of the student must be considered.
  14. While including consideration of student needs that are of concern to the parent is good practice, incorporating that consideration explicitly into the IEP may create dilemmas for districts.  Would a district need to transcribe the parent's wishes and then document why the wishes could not be fulfilled?  Would a district have to include each particular concern raised by the parent?

    Consideration of the concerns of the parents is not just a good practice; it is a requirement of federal law, federal regulations and State regulations. The identification of the needs of the student must reflect consideration of the concerns of the parents for enhancing the education of their child.  This does not mean that every concern expressed and/or recommendation that the parent offers must be included in the IEP form.  While prior written notice does require the district to document actions refused and the reasons for the refusal, the needs of the student to be addressed by the IEP must include consideration of concerns of the parent for enhancing the education of the student.  The recommendations to be included in the students' IEP reflect the consensus of the CSE or CPSE, in consideration of many factors, including the concerns raised by the student’s parent(s).
  15. What if a parent insisted that her child needed an IEP goal of demonstrating mastery at, for example, riding a bicycle, using school-based physical therapy (PT) and adapted physical education (APE) as the means of achieving that goal?  It may be appropriate that APE and/or PT address some related skill development essential to progress in the general education curriculum and daily living skills, but it is questionable whether learning to ride a bicycle is a required component of a FAPE that a district must provide.  How would a district include in the IEP consideration of such a parental concern without assuming responsibility and liability for actually teaching the student to ride a bicycle (and for actually providing the bicycle, for that matter)?

    In this case, the Committee should consider (i.e., discuss and document) the parent’s concerns, which may be related to motor development, balance, and/or development of age-appropriate leisure activities.  The IEP must include the needs of the student in consideration of the concerns of the parent. If the Committee reaches a consensus that using the methodology of teaching the student to ride a bicycle is not a need recommended for safety or other reasons, this should be explained to the parent in prior written notice, but would not need to be included in the IEP.
  16. Should information in the management needs section of the IEP be specific or generic?  Examples in the new guidance document tend to be general and based around skill development.  Districts tend to provide specific information (such as Joey needs timers or Sophie needs verbal prompts).  Which is correct or are both acceptable?  There is some confusion as to what information goes under Management Needs and what information belongs in Recommended Special Education Programs and Services.

    Each Committee must decide on a case-by-case basis the level of specificity needed to identify a student’s management needs.  To document management needs, the Committee must determine the nature of and degree to which environmental modifications and human or material resources are required to enable to student to benefit from instruction in consideration of the student’s present levels of performance in the areas of academic achievement, functional performance and learning characteristics; social development and physical development.  At this point in the IEP development process, the Committee is identifying needs, (e.g., limited audio/visual distractions, scheduled rest periods, consistency in routine, assistive technology to assist communication, assistance with transitions), not specific recommendations to address those needs.

    In the section of the IEP Recommended Special Education Programs and/or Services, the IEP must identify the specific recommendations to address the management needs of the student, as identified under Present Levels of Performance.  Examples include, but are not limited to, preferential seating in regular class recommended for a student who needs limited audio/visual distractions; text-to-speech and speech-to-text software for a student who needs assistive technology to assist in communication skills.

  17. In the Present Levels of Performance and Individual Needs section, how much detail is needed to report the results of alternative assessments?(Added 4/11)
    In the development of an IEP, the Committee must consider, as appropriate, the results of the student’s performance on any general State or district-wide assessment programs.  The determination of how much detail, based on the results of such assessments, would be appropriate to include in a student’s IEP must be made by the Committee on a case-by-case basis.  Evaluation and other information considered in the development of a student’s IEP should provide instructionally-relevant information as to the unique needs of the student, current functioning, cognitive, physical, developmental, and behavioral factors that affect learning, and how the disability affects the student's participation and progress in the general education curriculum and in general education classes.
  18. Can you please clarify whose responsibility it is to input the academic achievement, functional performance and learning characteristics, standardized test results and goals and objectives in the IEP?  Is it the district’s responsibility or the evaluating agencies’ responsibility for preschool students? (Added 4/11)<
    The development of a student’s IEP requires information from a variety of individuals, including a student’s special education teachers and related service providers.  Where the district has a contract for services for an individual student with, for example, an approved preschool program, the providers from the approved program should expect to have a role in providing information so that the Committee can develop an appropriate IEP for the student.  However, ultimately, it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that the Committee has developed an IEP for the student.  The decision as to who and how information is entered on the form itself is best left to local discretion.
  19. If a student only has one need area (e.g., spelling), would the district need to report all the other academic areas (reading, math, science, social studies, etc.) in the levels/abilities and strengths sections of the IEP, or would the IEP only require documentation of the student’s present level of performance in the need area of spelling? (Added 4/11)
    The present levels of performance must document the student’s current level of functioning in those areas impacted by the student’s disability.  There is no requirement that the IEP document present levels of performance in all academic areas.  However, in documenting a student’s strengths, the Committee may determine that it is appropriate to document a student’s performance in other academic areas as well.
  20. In the Social Development or Physical Development Present Levels of Performance sections, if a student does not demonstrate a need in either area, would the district simply state “no needs” as well as indicating a basic statement for levels/abilities and the strengths parts? (Added 4/11)
    Section 200.4(b)(2)(i) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that the IEP report the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and indicate the individual needs of the student according to each of the four need areas, including how the student’s disability affects involvement and progress in the general education curriculum, or for preschool students, as appropriate, how the disability affects the student’s participation in appropriate activities.  The Committee must discuss and document its consideration of the student’s needs in these areas. If there are no individual needs related to one or more of the four need areas, the IEP could indicate that the student’s skills are within normal limits or that no disability-related needs were identified.
  21. For students who are medically fragile or have severe medical issues, what can be put in the IEP with relation to medication or procedures? (Added 4/11)
    The IEP must report the student’s present levels of performance and indicate a student’s individual needs in four areas, including the area of physical development.  In the Present Levels of Performance and Individual Needs section, the IEP must document the degree or quality of the student’s motor and sensory development, health, vitality, and physical skills or limitations that pertain to the learning process.  This information could, but is not required to, include medical issues.  Specific information about medication, medical procedures or other medical issues could also be included in the optional Student Information Summary form if a district chooses to use the form.  Districts should be cognizant of the confidentiality of student information as medical needs are documented.
  22. For a student with ADHD who is on medication, is it appropriate to include a statement in the student’s IEP such as “student tends to do better on medication but student isn't always on it, which affects his participation in the general education curriculum”?(Added 4/11)
    In consideration of the student’s physical needs, a Committee should consider and document factors that may affect a student’s performance, including as appropriate, documented inconsistencies in a student’s behavior based on medical factors.  However, the statement provided in the question posed “student tends to do better on medication, but student isn't always on it, which affects his participation in the general education curriculum” does not provide the specificity that may be needed to specifically identify a student’s present level of performance.  A more appropriate statement might be: “student’s time on task, performance on math and reading tasks and appropriate behavior during unstructured times (e.g., lunch, hall transitions) during the day is better during the days the student is taking his prescribed medications.” 
Last Updated: April 14, 2011