Present Levels of Educational Performance (PLEPs)
By Todd McIntyre of AppliedGiftedEd
The topic of Present Levels of Educational Performance is a frequent one
within Gifted Ed in Pennsylvania, either by its presence or absence.
This article deals with these issues -
- Present Levels
Districts should determine a student's PLEP prior to the Gifted IEP meeting.
Frequently, this does not happen. If the district is not cooperating,
parents can get an idea on their child's present level as compared to
A home-administered PLEP assessment does not replace the need for the GIEP
team to establish a student's PLEP before the GIEP meeting, e.g. using
curriculum-based assessment (CBAs) or nationally normed achievement tests.
However, parents who are frustrated in their attempts to get an accurate
PLEP may find both the information and the links useful. If you're wondering
where you child is in relation to Pennsylvania standards, this post will
provide some options for you to get those answers.
- District Curriculum Levels
This section includes a brief take on nationally normed achievement tests,
the meaning of 'test levels', and the grade level displayed on the text
books in front of the students, and what those things mean to a gifted kid
within a local school district.
Certain districts may, at times, ignore or discount gifted testing results
on the basis that the district's local standards are higher than the
national norm used in the test. As such, in those districts, a gifted
student's performance on a nationally normed test doesn't matter.
A common reason give is that, in that particular district at least,
everybody is a grade or two (or three ... or four) above the national level
as given on the test. Ergo, your child is not gifted for the purposes of
receiving a GIEP.
- PSSA Testing and its role in Gifted IEPs
The PSSA is not, in fact it can't be, a test used to establish a gifted
The main role the PSSA test can play at a GIEP meeting is to identify
weakness - a student with high ability and otherwise high achievement that
scores 'poorly' on a PSSA probably has a test taking deficit, not a
knowledge one. The reason for that deficit is a suitable topic of discussion
for the GIEP Team.
Also, as it turns out, that the PDE allows special testing accommodations
for gifted students during their PSSA testing.
This is the work of a lone parent of a gifted kid. I'm not an attorney,
educational professional, or school psychologist. Take it for what its worth.
I've had to track down this stuff and make sense of it all, as best I can, in
the course of advocating for my own gifted child. Along the way I've had a
tremendous amount of help from people who work as gifted education
professionals, teachers, administrators, psychologists, and lawyers. I hope I've
not misrepresented or botched what they've passed along to me. That said,
if anybody has corrections, observations and wants to email me with those
corrections or questions, I'll update this as needed.
Thoughts about PLEP, Levels, and the PSSA:
Establishing an accurate Present Level of Educational Performance, called
PLEP, in their gifted child's GIEP is a frequent topic on PAGElist and at
The information in this post may help parents understand how to go about asking
that their gifted child's present level of educational performance be
accurately, objectively assessed and insisting that it happen.
PLEP vs. Gifted Identification
Developing the PLEP section is distinct from Gifted Identification. Unlike
the process used to identify gifted students, the process to establish a gifted
student's present level is simple and basic - the GIEP team needs assess the
student well enough to know the student's present levels of educational
performance in their academic subjects.
To gain this knowledge the GIEP team must use some sort of objective
assessment and one that is not limited to a particular level. PA Gifted
regulations do not specify any particular test or kind of test be used to
establish PLEP, the regulations require that the information be present before
the GIEP plan be created.
However, the GIEP team must do enough assessment to come up with a
'reasonable calculation' of the student's present levels of educational
performance. Educational levels are generally given in terms of a grade level.
Grade levels are based on standards.
Note: Your child's Gifted IEP is not the same thing as your child
participating in "the Gifted Program"
If your district offers only a gifted pull-out program or restricts
gifted ed services to a single course in a particular year - then you have
another set of issues beyond getting an accurate PLEP established. Getting
an accurate PLEP is, however, the first step towards getting an adequate
PLEP testing should yield specific grade level results for each academic
subject. The meaning of the grade level result will depend on which test or
tests are given. Each test has information on how to interpret their scores, but
the grade level for that test will be based on some sort of standard.
Some tests are nationally normed and provide a nationally normed grade level.
Other standards could be those of specific organizations. Or the test standard
could be specific to Pennsylvania.
The basic breakdown of levels are these:
Nationally Normed Achievement Standards:
There are a number of nationally normed achievement tests that establish
a grade level. Keymath is one such test, TerraNova is another. These tests
establish a grade level using a nationally normed scale.
The school psychologist should have a working knowledge of tests that can
be used. Some of these tests (Keymath, TOWL, Grays Reading) can be
administered by a teacher trained to give the test rather than by a school
Organization Specific Standards:
Other grade level standards are specific to organizations. The National
Council of Teachers of Mathematics, NCTM, provides one such scale. The NCTM
site can be found here:
Simply put, the NCTM standard organizes the subject of mathematics into
strands and steps. This allows a student's progress to be placed along a
continuum in each strand. NCTM standards form a model that can be adopted by
states when defining their curriculum.
Pennsylvania Established Standards:
Pennsylvania establishes curricular standards for its subjects. The
standards for mathematics are located here:
The Dept. of Education establishes the curricular standards that must be
From a layperson's perspective think of this standard as the Dept of
"We don't care how you teach students math, just have them able to
add 4+2 by second grade, 25x32 by fourth grade, and so forth until they
Districts then choose a curriculum that they believe works best for their
circumstance to meet those standards. The particular type of curriculum is
up to the district.
Once a standard has been established, the district's student's performance
against the standard is assessed. This is done at the Dept. of Education's
Division of Assessment.
The Division of Assessments (DoA) website addresses issues relating to
measuring how students' perform against Pennsylvania standards. The DoA main
website is here:
A basic tenet of Pennsylvania public education is local control. 'Local' in
this case means individual school districts control their curriculum.
Districts are judged against performance criteria, however, as mentioned
previously, districts are free to choose their own text books and create their
own lesson plans.
The Division of Assessment reiterates the local control aspect of public
education on their main page.
These standards identify what a student should know and be able to do
at varying grade levels. School districts possess the freedom to design
curriculum and instruction to ensure that students meet or exceed the
Note on Gifted Ed Regulations: While districts have local control
over their curriculum, text books, and lesson plans, there is an over-riding
State requirement with gifted education.
The district is obligated to provide the gifted student with an education
of meaningful benefit based on the student's needs. Thus,
district policies regarding gifted education are better thought of as
This includes a district policy against acceleration. District's cannot
enforce a policy against acceleration if the gifted student's needs are such
that they require acceleration to benefit from their education.
One of the central challenges many parents of gifted students face is
having the student's ability level and the achievement level assessed
objectively and assessed independently of their enrolled grade.
Present levels are generally thought of in terms of the student's report
card. [Since they only cover one grade level, and a non-standardized
observation of the student including classroom attitude and homework
responsibility as well as curricular levels], report cards do not
establish a present level of educational performance. Report cards show
performance against a curriculum that's been taught and, perhaps, the
effectiveness of the teaching style. It's okay to have report cards as part
of the PLEP section. However, you need more than a report card and a PSSA
score to establish PLEP. Period.
While districts have local control over their curriculum, their students are
expected to meet certain expectations which are assessed. Those expectations are
set out in Assessment Anchors.
Assessment anchors are a subset of the Chapter 4 curriculum guidelines. They
identify those areas of Chapter 4 that will be tested on the PSSA. The
Frequently Asked Question page for Assessment Anchors is found here:
Of particular note is this section of the Assessment Anchor FAQ, Assessment
- Aligned. The focus is on helping students achieve the state's
standards. The Anchors align directly to the state's standards in Reading
and Mathematics. The Anchors simply clarify the standards.
- Grade Appropriate. Teachers may have different ideas about what
skills should be mastered by which grade levels. The Anchors provide clear
examples of skills and knowledge that should be learned at the different
grade levels that will be assessed on state tests.
PDE's Assessment Anchors cover both mathematics and reading. They are found
Each section has an introduction which parents should read.
The grade level sections themselves are not layperson friendly. They are
educator specific. However, the Overview contains a good glossary section that
define terms and concepts that will be covered at each grade level.
If you are considering acceleration for your child you should look over the
glossary material with them. For example, here is the 8th grade Math glossary:
A simple review of terminology and concepts might help the parent gauge
whether the child is ready for district curriculum testing.
The Division of Assessment also provides resource materials for both
Mathematics and Reading. These are found here:
These resources are geared more for teachers than for parents. However, there
are summaries of formulae that are to be learned at specific grade levels and
other items that can help a parent judge where their child is relative to the
Another value for parents in reading over these materials is that they become
more familiar with the rubrics used to score the PSSA tests. For example, this
material might help a parent work with a gifted student who has difficulty
writing down the steps it took for them to solve a math problem.
Also, there is an Item Bank of test questions for each PSSA test as well.
That Item Bank is found here:
While the test items in the Item Bank do not definitively determine the
student's performance levels, the test items provided can help a parent gauge
their child's achievement against Pennsylvania curricular standards.
The District Curriculum:
Districts must meet, but can exceed, the requirements set out by the Dept. of
Education. The Dept. of Education sets out the lowest permissible
level to districts. This leads situations where districts will state that its
students are 'actually' a grade or two higher than their enrolled grade when
compared to an outside group.
For example, parents of a gifted fourth grader who achieves at a sixth grade
level on nationally normed achievement test may be told those results are
irrelevant as the fourth graders in this district are 'really' sixth graders
when they take a nationally normed test.
There are a couple of problems with that. At face value, a statement like
that does not make sense. Secondly, if the fourth graders are 'really' six
graders then why are they in fourth grade?
If the district asserts that its students perform at a level significantly
above the national standard then the parent is justified in asking two
- What is the basis for that statement? Please share your data.
- If my 4th grade kid who achieved as a 6th grader on a nationally normed
test really should be in a 4th grade class because the students in this
district perform two grades above the national level, then why are our 4th
grade students using a 4th grade textbook that is also based on a nationally
Also, if that's the case: shouldn't our fourth-but-really-sixth grade
students be using a 6th grade nationally normed textbook in their 4th
Textbooks are published to meet the requirements of states. States require
minimum levels of achievement. Usually, but not always, minimum
standards make lousy guidelines for gifted ed.
The issue of standards and grade levels applies to textbooks as well as
While the district's curriculum may in fact exceed the state requirements for
any particular grade level, the textbooks used provide a good insight into the
instructional level of the course. Textbooks are, in effect, nationally normed.
This is an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article in 2004 that
addresses the role of textbooks and PSSA scores:
The company generated sales of $4.4 billion and a profit of $560
million in 2003. About a fourth of the company's revenues and profits come
from sales to K-12 schools, according to Pearson Prentice's Web site. The
company's K-12 profits jumped 13 percent in 2003, as textbook sales outpaced
other competitors', according to the Web site.
Like other textbook publishers, Pearson Prentice has little choice but
to work the niche market standardized tests have produced, said company
spokeswoman Kate Miller.
If a company's books don't focus on the state's assessment test, she
explained, "You're not going to be able to sell in the state."
Another example of how the textbook and course material that the student uses
are matched to Pennsylvania curricular standards, which are the lowest standards
that can be used, is found here:
This material is educator-specific, but illustrates that the grade
level on the textbook is set to Pennsylvania standards, which are
Districts may extend or enrich their curriculum beyond what is found in the
textbook, however it's not too big a stretch to hope that a student who achieves
at above-grade results on a nationally normed achievement test should have a
textbook at that nationally normed level.
Caveat: Levels -
Parents need to understand the meaning of the assessment results. A good
primer on evaluation and assessment is located at
www.wrightslaw.com and is found
Some tests give material at a particular level and then report the
student's achievement compared to other students. The PSSA is one such test.
These tests can report the student's performance compared it to older
students who took the same test. For example, your seventh grade student
scored the same as a tenth grader taking that seventh grade test.
That does not mean that the student can do the same work as the tenth
grade student. It simply means that your gifted seventh grader scored the
same as the typical tenth grader who took the seventh grade test.
The other type of testing presents material at a particular higher level
or at an increasing level of difficulty.
The results then show how the student did working above their grade level
or age level. The student's results are then pegged to the scale and then
compared to either age peers or against the older group. The SCAT and
Explore tests are examples of above-level tests.
The issue with a district in which they claim that the students are 'all
above level' is that they go beyond Pennsylvania curricular standards.
Remember: those standards are minimum standards. However, they
are important. Those minimum standards are the ones assessed during the PSSA
By definition the PSSA is not an above-grade level test.
The PSSA only tests those items identified in the Anchors and only does so at
the grade level of the test. The PSSA makes a point of saying that only grade
level material, as defined by the requirements, will be on the test.
This means that, regardless of how well the student scores on their PSSA
test, they have only done work at that test's grade level. This quote is from
the Division of Assessment's main web page:
The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a
standards based criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student's
attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to
which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the
standards. Every Pennsylvania student in 5th, 8th and 11th grade is assessed
in reading, math and writing.
The PSSA only measures the degree to which the student attained the grade
level standard. The PSSA does not establish a present level of educational
This is particularly true for gifted students.
The PSSA shows only whether a student is performing at one of four levels
(Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced) with respect to that grade level.
While the PSSA is, absent a parent filing a religious objection to taking the
test, an inevitability, the results of the PSSA are more significant to the
district than to the gifted student.
Gifted and the PSSA
Students with GIEPs are eligible for accommodations while taking the PSSA.
The accommodations need to be discussed and approved by the GIEP team and added
to the GIEP. Some examples of accommodations include the following:
- testing in an environment with fewer children,
- having the student type their answers to questions (the test
administrator then transcribes the typed answer verbatim),
- taking the test in a less distracting test environment
Accommodating gifted students appropriately while they take the PSSA should
be one of those common-sense areas where interests align. Parents want the
student to do well. Presumably the student wants to do well. We know the school
wants the student to test well. Why not have the gifted student take the test in
an environment which helps them demonstrate their abilities?
A fact sheet for PSSA Accommodations Guidelines can be found here:
I called last year regarding a gifted ed student's ability to have
accommodations. I was told that, so long as the GIEP team puts it in writing,
there's no problem.
The biggest area this can help, I think, is to allay district fears that
gifted kids won't do well on the PSSA test and, as such, the gifted kid needs to
spend 14 hours reviewing material that was below their ability a year or two
The GIEP team could include PSSA prep issues and PSSA testing accommodations
in the GIEP itself. Which is good for the kid. And, if the district is
interested in maximizing its scores, it's good for the district as well.
At least it's something to talk about at the GIEP table, other than the
gifted pull-out program.
At this point, you're probably wondering if was necessary for you to spend
ten minutes or so reading about fairly arcane stuff. Well, maybe.
Good Gifted IEPs are based on accurate PLEP sections. Report cards and PSSA
scores do not, and never have, established PLEP. Without an accurate PLEP
section, the GIEP Team is simply guessing at what's going to work in a Gifted
IEP, provided you're in a district which offers any kind of individualization.
The first hurdle a lot of parents will face for their kid's Gifted IEP is the
PLEP one. What's maddening is that getting an accurate PLEP isn't expensive,
isn't time-consuming, and is fairly straight-forward. The complicating factor to
all this is the gifted student. There's no one test or series of tests to
The goal of the exercise is to know enough about the student in order to
determine if they are receiving an education of meaningful benefit - based on
the student's needs. That's about as simple a requirement as can be given to a
Unfortunately, simple things are rarely easy.
For a variety of reasons I think the Present Levels section is the most
important section to work on when trying to individualize a GIEP. I'll talk
about those reasons is in a moment, but first I need to make five quick points
about the PLEP section of the GIEP.
- Present levels testing is distinct from Gifted Identification
Evaluation/Reevaluation. Once the kid is identified 'gifted' you are talking
about Present Levels testing and assessment. Do not confuse the two.
- Chapter 16 has no timelines/permissions requirements for Present
Levels testing. Basically, the GIEP Team must have student's present
levels information prior to the start of the GIEP meeting. They are
authorized to give whatever assessments are necessary to get a thorough
(enough) assessment of the student's present levels of educational
- There's no one test you can give or report you can write that works for
all Present Levels sections. It's up to the GIEP Team to decide which tests
to give and what information to use. The issue with PLEP testing more or
less comes down to the common-sense question:
"Do we know enough about this gifted kid to make an educational plan that
is appropriate for them?"
- The first 'real' PLEP section takes the most work since its likely that
the district is unfamiliar with the tests and the process and how to match
the results to its curriculum. So your both sort of working your way through
the first 'real' PLEP. Once you've established a 'good' PLEP, subsequent
ones should be done more easily.
- Despite the length of the previous post and this one, testing/assessing
for PLEP does not have to be expensive or take a lot of time.
Many Gifted IEP PLEP sections consist of the latest report card and, perhaps,
scores from tests like the OLSAT, Stanford Achievement Tests, and/or the PSSAs.
Some also include teacher observations and checklists. That information is good
to have in the PLEP section, but those items alone do not tell you the student's
present level of educational performance.
Report cards tell you how the student is doing against material
already presented. Report cards also tell you how much material
has been covered. As a result, report cards do not tell you where
the student is academically on any objective scale.
Also, report cards consist of grades which have a subjective component. For
example, students can lose points, possibly grades, for tardiness, neatness, or
not completing assignments. That information is important to have, and the
student needs to develop skills regarding each, but those reasons have nothing
to do with the student's present level of educational performance. Also, in some
cases the reason for the lowered grade may due to a gifted-related need that is
The PSSA is not an assessment tool for gifted either, it's a minimum skills
test tied strictly to grade level. As described in the previous post, the PSSA
does not tell you what the student's achievement level is, it only tells you how
they did against grade level material. The PSSA information is good to have in a
PLEP section as well as it can be used to identify areas of need for the GIEP
team to address.
Teacher observations and checklists are, by their nature, subjective
evaluations. While they have a role in discussing PLEP - for example, if a
particular teaching method is effective given the nature of the child's
giftedness - those observations and checklists do not provide a gifted student's
present level, either.
PLEP sections which have only report cards, PSSA scores, and teacher
observations are insufficient. The question then is how should the GIEP team go
about getting a proper PLEP established.
The GIEP team's task is to modify the regular education curriculum to make it
provide 'meaningful' benefit to the gifted kid. The variable here is the child,
not the curriculum. As such the GIEP team needs to know 'enough' about the
gifted kid to decide if the regular unmodified curriculum will be one which
gives the gifted kid 'meaningful benefit. That requires objective assessment of
the student. The results are then discussed in light of the regular education
curriculum. That conversation can be fairly commonsensical in nature.
If, after the results of the assessments and evaluations are known, the
district can show the parent that the gifted student will be engaged in their
learning, and make the case persuasive, then the parent should approve the plan.
An example of this includes gifted students doing independent research in a
class while the rest of the class is learning material the gifted student has
already mastered. If the district's lesson plans allow for differentiation, then
that subject may not need to be put into a GIEP. The regular curriculum is
adjustable enough to accommodate the gifted kid.
In certain subjects that's not the case. Math lends itself most readily to
the subject of acceleration. That is, there's only so much enrichment that is
useful before a student gifted in math no longer is receiving an education of
'meaningful benefit'. There are specific tests that can be used to determine
both a student's math ability and math achievement, ask your school psychologist
to attend the GIEP meeting. Also, ask the math teacher to be present.
The question for the parent boils down to "Will my gifted kid learn anything
in this course next year?" The testing should provide a basis for that
conversation. The subject of gaps, and how much time will the student spend
engaged in their learning is a fit topic for a GIEP meeting. Insist that the
testing be done and the conversation happen.
Understand, though, that a district cannot declare by fiat that its proposed
curriculum is appropriate. They need to convince you. If they can't convince
you, they'll need to convince a hearing officer.
Warning: The remainder of the post talks about what happens when
GIEP Teams decide to not do appropriate PLEP evaluation, when districts dig
their heels in and cite policy or practice rather than showing why their regular
ed curriculum is appropriate for the kid and what tests were used to make that
Situations where districts and parents fail to agree on gifted educational
placement decisions are common. Many times those disagreements are resolvable at
the GIEP table through discussion. Other times, they are not resolved.
If districts and parents fail to come to an agreement about a GIEP their
disagreement will be resolved by a Hearing Officer at ~ big gulp ~ a Due Process
Caveat Lector: I'm not an attorney, educator, or school
psychologist. An attorney can help you protect your gifted child's rights.
Consult with one or two. A school psychologist with a training in special ed/gifted
ed can interpret test scores and make diagnoses. Consult with one or two. People
on PAGEList can provide referrals if you ask.
(For Pennsylvania residents - you can join PAGEList by clicking on
www.penngifted.org and looking for
This advice is, in my opinion, best suited for people who meet the following
- Gifted-only issues are involved, possible LD/Chapter 14 issues have been
- District at least acknowledges that Giftedness exists
- District is not inclined to retaliate
- District is 'hesitant' or 'moderately unwilling' but not 'evil'
- Simple 'black and white' issues are initially involved. These include:
- District refuses Gifted ID/IQ Test before 3rd Grade
- District does not offer individualization.
- District refuses to explain its educational recommendations to the
Parent/GIEP Team Member
By following this advice you may adversely affect your ability to get
compensatory education for your gifted child should you later go to Due Process
with or without an attorney. Reading this advice, however, will give you a
better understanding of your options at GIEP meetings and your role in the
Gifted Ed process.
Advice not valid in New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, or Maryland, or any of
the other 49 states in the U.S..
See dealer for details.
Let's say that good PLEP testing/assessment does not happen, that your
district opts not to establish PLEP or declares itself to be 'minimally
compliant' or claims that a report card grade is, in and of itself, sufficient
to establish PLEP, or says that it wants to do Gifted Reevaluation rather than
simply conducting a PLEP assessment. Well, from a Gifted Ed process perspective,
you are in a situation where the district has proposed a GIEP based on a PLEP
that you feel is inadequate.
In that case the parent has no choice but to disapprove the
proposed GIEP on the basis that the PLEP section is insufficient.
Your belief is that the PLEP does not provide the basis for the GIEP Team to
create a plan that is 'reasonably calculated' to be of 'meaningful benefit.' If
you believe that, then you need to signify that belief by disapproving the GIEP
Signing a NORA 'Disapproved' triggers a series of events which leads,
ultimately, to a Due Process Hearing. The hearing can be avoided at any point
prior to the date if the two sides come to an agreement - that agreement can
happen when there's been additional assessment and a revised GIEP. (Note: You
can ask that a hearing be postponed, not cancelled, to allow time for additional
testing to take place. Never cancel a hearing until you have an agreement you
Technically, the district should, upon receipt of the disapproval on the NORA,
file the hearing request. The reasoning goes like this: the GIEP team is there
to act in the interest of the gifted student. Once there is a disagreement
in writing on the NORA the district is obligated to file for Due Process
to prove that its recommendation is the appropriate one.
The basic reasoning is that the gifted student is a student with an
exceptionality and, as such, requires an approved, appropriate educational plan.
Only two people can approve educational plans and neither one gets paid by the
District. Those people are the parent and the Hearing Officer.
In cases where the parent objects to the GIEP, but does a sort-of 'pocket veto'
of the plan, the parent has tacitly endorsed the district's proposed plan. This
makes that plan the current plan. (As the song goes 'if you choose not to
decide you still have made a choice.')
However, in Pennsylvania's 502nd School District known as Reality, districts do
not file Due Process over gifted issues and take parents to hearings to justify
the district's plan. So it's up to the parent to check the box on the NORA, get
the Due Process form, write the reasons, and make a copy of the completed form.
Send in one copy of the completed form to the Office of Dispute Resolution and
drop the other one off with the district. (Again, I'm not an attorney, so do
consult with one.)
Filing for Due Process over this PLEP issue may seem a bit drastic, but, I think
not. I'll go into reasons why in a moment, but first a brief digression into Due
First, at the moment, given the lay of the gifted educational landscape, absent
any of the following occurrences:
- Widespread Compliance Monitoring,
- An outflow of 10,000 gifted students to charter schools because of
gifted ed reasons,
- A PDE that explains to districts and tax-payers that funding for gifted
ed is included in the basic allotment and is not a separate mandate,
- Nick Colangelo being appointed Secretary of Education,
- Either attorney's fees become reimbursable for gifted issues or
attorneys take a sudden, massive interest in pro bono work for gifted ed.,
- Ouija boards are found to be effective at determining a gifted student's
PLEP and creating their individualized GIEPs, or
- Putting your kid in private school.
Nothing is going to change with regard to your kid's Gifted IEP unless you
get involved. You may have to initiate a Due Process Hearing in order to effect
a change. So you'll need to at least think about Due Process.
There are two basic aspects to Due Process issues:
- Due Process can be filed to remediate past problems , or
- Due Process can be filed to ensure future benefits.
Those two points are not mutually exclusive.
In the former case the parents are making the claim that the student was not
properly educated and, generally, that the district should therefore provide
The purpose of compensatory education is to help the student by making up for
services which should have been given had the district acted reasonably,
given what it knew at the time. (Note: consult an attorney. Comp ed awards often
turn on issues involving perfect conditional clauses, those can be tricky
In these types of situation parents go to Due Process because they're
extremely frustrated and/or angry and, it's possible, that the student has
suffered from the neglect and requires remedial services. That may be the case
and I'm not arguing against a parent going to Due Process for the specific
purpose of remediating a need through comp ed hours while ensuring that an
appropriate plan is in place.
However, if you are a parent thinking through your situation, you might want
to separate the two issues, past wrongs and better tomorrows.
In the latter case a Due Process hearing results from a disagreement that the
proposed plan meets the basic definitional requirements contained in Chapter 16.
The issue in these types of cases do not turn on fine points of Chapter 16
There's no issue for the parents whether last year's teachers harmed the
gifted kid by denying educational services, the issue presented here is more
direct. The issue is whether a particular section of the Gifted IEP is Chapter
16 compliant. The questions become:
- Is this a valid PLEP Section, or not?
- Has enough testing been done? Or Not?
These questions come on PAGEList and at conferences frequently. As a parent,
one test for this is whether the district is 'making sense' at the GIEP meeting
or 'citing policy/regulation'. If they're making sense, then listen. If they're
citing policy or regulation, be skeptical.
Going to Due Process for those basic issues strikes me as being
non-adversarial and presents a situation that can be rather easily resolved.
I mean, is the district going to go to a Due Process hearing on the basis
that the report card is sufficient and that it does not need to prepare
an accurate Present Levels of Educational Performance to create a Gifted IEP?
Sure ... odder things have shown up in Appeals Panel decisions. But there are
a couple of things to consider here should you go to Due Process:
- The conversation at the hearing largely be between the Hearing Officer
and the District,
- The student is not involved in this particular discussion. The student's
performance is not at issue. What is at issue is the district's
understanding and application of basic Chapter 16 regulations, and
- Hearing Officers can order that PLEP testing be done.
The goal all along has been to have an appropriate, individualized
educational plan. To do that you need accurate testing in the Present Levels
section. If all else fails, the Hearing Officer can order testing. You might
need to go to Due Process to get that testing done.
Besides having the charm of being a regulatory requirement, good PLEP testing
does two things:
- It allows a meaningful discussion about the student to take place at the
GIEP meeting, and
- It gives the parents a record of the student's abilities and their
achievements should subsequent Due Process Hearings become necessary.
Once the PLEP testing is done, the results must be considered and used in the
creation of an individualized gifted education plan. Once the PLEP testing is
done, the results will be known to any future hearing officers or Appeals Panels
members that might cross your path down the road. So, if you don't want to file
for Due Process over what happened the past year, consider that you might need
to file for Due Process for the coming year.
If your motivation for filing is that your child should get a big comp ed
award for what was done to them, then chances are you will need an attorney
to assist you with that effort.
If your motivation for filing is that you want an actual, effective,
implemented GIEP based on an accurate PLEP, and your child doesn't have one,
you should file for Due Process over that reason - comp ed hours may result
from going to Due Process. If they're awarded, then use them to help your
The district, unless they're evil and retaliatory, may offer to 'settle'
the case before going to Due Process,. This is especially true if they
haven't really done any of the things called for by Chapter 16 and recognize
The district's settlement offer may be less than what a Hearing Officer
would award, especially if you have an attorney representing your child. But
then you didn't have to go through the hearing.
So you have to make a decision.
The other need for PLEP testing is more straightforward. Gifted education is
supposed to be commonsensical in nature. Once you have accurate information
about the child, the GIEP should begin to take shape. If the student is well
above enrolled level in a subject, then subject acceleration should be
considered - regardless of district policy - because the kid might need that.
Problems occur when educational choices are left out because the student is
thought to be educated appropriately. Once data is available then you
know whether they are.
So, this is a long post. Ideally, this would be a rather short post that
consisted of four words:
Test Appropriately, Use Results.
Instead these have been a rather rambling series of posts.
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to the correct test nor is there only
one way to appropriately educate a child. More unfortunately, there isn't
widespread compliance monitoring, nor have Ouija boards been found to be
What's needed, though, is recognition and discussion. Remember:
If your district won't provide a good Present Levels section -
they can't provide a good Gifted IEP.
At the moment, you need to insist that they do.
P.S. There are Appeals Panel cites and a whole buncha stuff in the
nuts-and-bolts of the Gifted Guidelines, the BEC, Chapter 16 and all that. The
two take away steps for parents are these:
- If you have a Gifted IEP meeting coming up, send in a letter asking that
all tests necessary for creating an accurate Present Level of Educational
Performance section be done prior to the meeting. Ask them to call you if
they have any questions. (If you get a call - ask them what, besides the
report card and PSSAs will be in the Present Levels section), and
- If you go to the meeting and there is no additional information, you
will have to inform the team that you will be glad to talk about issues in
general, but that you will not be able to approve any plan until an accurate
PLEP section is created - and tell them that report cards and checklists are
If your district decides to call your bluff - you will need to show them that
you weren't bluffing. Ask them to contact the PDE then disapprove the GIEP by
signing the NORA, file for Due Process on the PLEP issue along with other
issues, depending on your specific situation.
Standard disclaimer: The decision to file for Due Process isn't
easy or fun, but it's sometimes necessary to file for one. Remember, this
post is offered for advice only to parents dealing with 'gifted-only' issues
in districts which might not be doing things 'right' but aren't actively
doing things 'wrong'.
If you're in a district which is 'evil' and/or retaliatory, you've got a
different set of problems besides gifted ed - consult an attorney. If you've
got a possible LD involvement and the district won't test further- consult
an attorney and a school psychologist.
But, if you're at the point where you're seriously considering filing for
Due Process consult with an attorney.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
This article printed from Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, www.hoagiesgifted.org
Original URL is www.hoagiesgifted.org/present_levels.htm