How to Write Effective Present Levels in an IEP

How to Write Present Levels in an IEP

Writing present levels isn’t an easy task for all special education teachers. In this post, we’ll walk through a sample IEP and what should be reported on a present levels documents. After the demographic information you will be expected to report on all aspects of the student’s well-being. It is understood that most information will be reported as seen in the school setting but there will be parts of the IEP where parents can include information about home living and abilities.

Present Levels Start with Student Strengths

Generally the IEP will start by asking for a report of strengths, preferences, and interests. This is where we mention what is the student best at, what are they good at, Do they have preferences hobbies and interests? When I’m working with a psychologist on an initial, she usually fills this in because she talks to the students a long time about their hobbies, their interests, their fears, what they like about school, what they don’t.

I always want to mention what subject they’re best at or what kind of activity they’re best at in school. For example, do they prefer group work, working alone, projects, art?

Get Parent Input on Present Levels

Next it may ask for parent input. I don’t ever type anything into the parent input or concerns unless they’ve contacted me a couple weeks prior to the IEP or when they get the invitation. So, at this point in the meeting, I will ask for input. Are there any questions or concerns they would like addressed during the meeting or anything they want the team to know. I always have a paper ready to write that down anything I have not already answered in preparing the remainder of the IEP document.

Use Testing Data to Identify Present Levels

Present levels will ask for current testing data. In California we have the Smarter Balance tests, because of covid recently, we don’t have the sub skills, but we do have scores for last year on the overall standard, I will mark Met Standard, Nearly Met or Standard not met depending on the information I found in the online cumulative educational file.

Remember, the students don’t take these tests at the younger grades, so that’s when it would be appropriate to indicate, not applicable.

The California alternate assessment is given to students who are performing well below grade level and may not be able to participate in the standard state test in any meaningful manner. This will also be indicated in the present levels.

English language learners will get language scores. This current performance level will be documented. If you don’t find that information in the cumulative records, you might also have a site coordinator for an assessment of English language learners, and so you’d seek them out.

Physical fitness testing happens intermittently. So, I will indicate if they were tested during the past year and if so, what the performance level was. At my current school, I may find a pass fail or some actual data on activity and performance depending on the P.E. teacher.

In the IEP it will ask for other assessment data Here is where I type in current grades. Current could be the last formal report of progress, or up to date grades. Either is acceptable.
Your district may have other progress data the student participates in. Include that here as well.

Hearing and vision screening information should be included with dates for pass or fail. If there is a text option and the student wears glasses, indicate that here.

Grades Help to Show Present Levels

In the area of the IEP called pre-academic and academic functioning skills is where I put the results from my standardized testing and present levels I collected when gathering data to report on goals. If you do use a standardized test be sure to include the test name and edition.


Communication is the next area you need to report present levels of functioning. For students that are not receiving speech and communication services. If the student receives speech and language services your SLP will complete this section. If they do not, you need to report here as well. You may just type, “The student speaks in complete sentences, can ask for help and communicates with peers. No concern at this time.” If however you have a concern, note it and the team can decide if further assessment is needed.

Motor Development in Present Levels

You will need to report on gross and fine motor skills. If there are not concerns I write something to the effect of, “Participates in general education PE without concern – typical to peers. Penmanship is legible and typical to peers.” A student who writes messy when rushing, would not be a concern. When I notice when working with a student I will hold on to a sample where they have made a better effort. This can turn into a conversation about how to address rushing and best effort. If you feel this is an area of need accommodations can be made. If you are not sure what those would like like, I will leave a link here for my FREE accommodation idea bank.

Social Emotional Present Levels

For any field titled social, emotional and behavior, this is where we document the student is feeling okay about themselves in school and getting along. If there are no concerns I will write, “Student has friends, appears happy, participates in groups and has friends. They follow classroom and school rules without concern.”


Vocational is a field where quite often I will talk to teachers that are new to special education and they think student are not working and don’t fill it in. This is not true. So if I’m imagining a sixth grade student, vocational things that they would be responsible for include, comes prepared to class, , follows school schedule independently, tracks and completes assignments.

Present Levels for Living Skills

Present IEP levels for adaptive and daily living would include self-care. At this time I also parents if they have any chores or participate in family responsibilities at home. I would include whatever they report. So, if mom said Yes, he has chores, but he has to be reminded, I would just type. “has routine chores as need reminders.”

Health is another Present Level

Health is another present levels where it would be documented if they have any kind of health condition. If they are on medication, I will write in the name of the medication and dosage. I will also include attendance information here.

Finally the educational IEP will ask, what goals will be addressed for the student to make progress in school.

Those are the fields of reporting included in most IEP documents.

Remember, you don’t want to leave anything in the present levels blank. Everything applies. This document is meant to be a complete and accurate picture of the student in this educational setting.

Leave a Reply