Supreme Court Decision in Endrew F. Focuses on Mainstreaming, Progress, and Designing IEPs to Meet Child’s ‘Unique Needs’

What a great day! On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued another unanimous ruling in favor of children with special needs and their parents.

The Court emphasized that full inclusion is the primary standard, with the “child progressing smoothly through the regular curriculum.”

The Court held that “merely more than de minimis” progress is not enough. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “…IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

If a child is not fully included, school officials must look at the child’s unique needs before developing an IEP that is “pursuing academic and functional advancement.”

The decision in Endrew F. is a great victory for those who advocate children being fully integrated in regular education classrooms.

Per the statute – unique needs = specialized instruction.

Read Pete Wright’s analysis of the Supreme Court decision in Endrew v. Douglas County.

Return to Data Collection

What do you know about your child’s unique needs? You will get information about your child’s unique needs from test data that measures your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and educational needs.

How do you measure the educational benefit? You look at changes in the test data over time.

  • Are your child’s standard scores, percentile ranks going up over time or going down?
  • Is your child regressing? Is he being damaged by an inappropriate educational program?
  • Is your child making progress and showing educational benefit?

We hope that the decision in Endrew F. will lead to a return to data collection and analysis of the data over time, instead of relying on subjective perceptions about a child’s progress.

Schools used to rely on data and objective measures of progress, before the 1991 decision in Shannon Carter’s case. After Carter, school districts stopped using objective tests to measure progress and embraced subjective “teacher observations.”

This is a great day! In Endrew F., the Court focused on educational progress, growth, and developing IEPs to meet the child’s unique needs, while also re-emphasizing the goal of integration or inclusion in regular education.

Congratulations to Endrew F’s parents and their attorney, Jack Robinson, Esq. of Spies, Powers & Robinson, Denver, CO. This was such a long battle. You lost at every level, until the Supreme Court agreed to hear your case, then ruled in your favor.


Supreme Court Clarifies FAPE Standard

The United States Supreme Court issued a big decision on Wednesday. The high court clarified what FAPE means and how courts should apply the FAPE requirement.

The decision in Endrew F by Joseph F v. Douglas County School District RE-1, # 15-827,  580 U.S. (2017) vacates and remands a previous decision by the Tenth Circuit.

This was a unanimous decision, the second special education unanimous decision by the Supreme Court this year. Although this opinion clarifies how courts should apply the FAPE standard, the court’s decision does not overrule the seminal Rowley decision. Instead, it clarifies Rowley and explains how courts have not been correctly interpreting the decision.

(*)Original article published by Jim Gerl, http://specialeducationlawblog.blogspot.com/

General analysis

The new gold standard for FAPE is: to meet its obligations under IDEA, a school district must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances. The court described this standard is a fact-intensive exercise. The question is what is reasonable not what is ideal.

The Supreme Court said today that the Rowley decision sheds light on what appropriate progress will look like in many cases- where a child is fully integrated in regular education classes that the IEP must be reasonably calculated to make progress and to make passing marks and advance from grade to grade. The court noted that the facts of Rowley fit this analysis. In footnote # 2, the court reiterated the language in Rowley that it was specifically declining to hold that every child advancing from grade to grade is automatically receiving FAPE. The Court also noted that the fact that the new standard is not a bright line is not in any way a suggestion that a court substitute its own notion of sound educational policy for that of professional educators.

But where a child is not fully integrated in regular education classes, the IEP need not aim for grade level advancement. Instead, the IEP must be appropriately ambitious in light of the child’s circumstances. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.

The clarification, according to the Court, is a standard not a formula- but in any event it is “…markedly more demanding than the ‘merely more than de Minimis’ (minimal things) test applied by the Tenth Circuit. It cannot be the case that the Act typically aims for grade level advancement for children with disabilities who can be educated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de Minimis progress for those who cannot.”

The Supreme Court decision also flatly rejected the parent’s argument that FAPE requires  opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities.  The court here noted that Congress has reauthorized IDEA a number of times without overruling the Rowley decision which had rejected a similar potential-maximizing FAPE standard, so it would not adopt the parent’s proposed FAPE standard.

The court stated: “We will not attempt to elaborate on what “appropriate” progress will look like from case to case. It is in the nature of the Act and the standard we adopt to resist such an effort: The adequacy of a given IEP turns on the unique circumstances of the child for whom it was created.”

For more information, you can read the entire supreme court decision here.


(*) This articles was edited by PRN to fit its many formats specifications and reader’s needs. Please, visit the original source if you would like to read the full original article.



U.S. Department of Education Publishes New Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities

Transition planning is a mandatory aspect of special education service delivery, according to federal special education law (IDEA 20 U.S.C. 1400). Federal law requires that school special education teams engage in transition planning for each student’s transition to adulthood — that is, from high school to college or employment.

The law states specific requirements for transition planning. These requirements include timing, assessment, goals, and services. In January 2017, the United States Department of Education published “A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities,” which explains IDEA’s requirement for transition planning and its relationship to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

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ARD/IEP Committee Decision Making Process

Federal regulations refer to an IEP team.  In Texas, this team is referred to as the Admission, Review, and Dismissal or ARD committee. This committee meets at least once a year to develop, review and/or revise a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

IDEA says that the IEP meeting serves as a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel, and enables them, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions regarding-

  • The student’s needs and appropriate goals designed to enable them to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum;
  • The extent to which the student will participate in the regular education environment and State and district-wide assessments;
  • The supplementary aids and services needed to support that involvement and participation (including in extracurricular and non-academic settings), and to achieve agreed-upon goals; and
  • The program modifications or supports for school personnel that will be provided to enable the student to advance toward their goals and to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.

Parents are considered equal partners with school personnel in making these decisions, and the ARD committee must consider the parents’ concerns and the information that they provide regarding their child.

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Comments That Parents Hear: “We don’t have an aide (or service, equipment item, etc.) for your child”

“We don’t have an aide (or service or equipment item, etc.) for your child, although we agree that it’s a good idea. Our budget is really tight and we just can’t afford it.”

Recall the Law

The school district must provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for children regardless of cost or funding issues. The school is required to identify building resources to meet the students’ needs.

“Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.” 300.39(a)

“Public agencies, therefore, must not make placement decisions based on a public agency’s needs or available resources, including budgetary considerations and the ability of the public agency to hire and recruit qualified staff.” comment to 300.116

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Ignoring This Will Derail Your Child’s IEP Goals: An IEP Strategy

Traits, personality traits, or characteristics … no matter what you call them, if ignored, it is almost a guarantee that your child’s IEP goals will fail. What are these traits you ask?  They are the immeasurable qualities that make your child who they are.

Things like:

  • Your child’s learning style
  • Your child’s interests
  • Your child’s anxiety triggers or fears
  • Your child’s view of themselves

Knowing and documenting these characteristics will help everyone on the ARD committee understand how best to provide services to your child. It will also help you determine if a particular intervention or accommodation is right for your child. For example, because my son is a visual learner, with auditory processing and concentration issues, having read-aloud as an accommodation is counter-intuitive. Because I know this, I would ask that the accommodation be adapted (i.e, giving my child a book to follow along with or using turn-taking during read aloud).

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Amending an IEP without a Meeting

Today’s post discusses IEP amendments, when it can be useful to amend without a meeting, and things to consider when you are deciding whether to amend your child’s IEP without a meeting.

What is an IEP amendment?

During the school year, a parent or ARD committee member might decide that a student’s IEP needs a slight adjustment that may not warrant a full ARD meeting. When changes are small or limited to a particular service, amending without waiting for a meeting can be a useful way to quickly enact the change. For example, a new semester or school year might mean that goals or services need tweaking to work in the new setting. These adjustments may not require consulting with the entire ARD committee. Similarly, a conversation between the parent and a speech therapist may reveal that the student needs a new speech/language goal. The parent and speech therapist might agree on an appropriate goal without feeling the need for input from the rest of the ARD committee. In these situations, the parent and district can agree to change the IEP without calling a meeting of the entire team. This change is called an IEP amendment.

An IEP amendment cannot take the place of the required annual IEP meeting.

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8 Tools for Kids With Dysgraphia

If your child has dysgraphia, this list of tools and apps from Understood.org can make writing easier. Your child may already use some of them at school, but it can help to have them at home, too. Most tools are sold in online catalogs for occupational therapists.


A Seven-Step Process to Creating Standards-based IEPs

This post presents a seven-step process for developing IEPs that are aligned with state academic grade-level content standards. Each step is followed by guiding questions for the ARD committee to consider in making data-based decisions. This process can help school personnel to: (a) consider each student’s strengths and needs to develop goals focused on closing the gaps between the student’s levels of academic achievement and grade-level standards; and (b) use data to make decisions, including selecting the most appropriate assessment option. The goal is to support ARD committees to develop documents that, when implemented, provide access to the general curriculum and enable students to demonstrate academic achievement linked to grade-level content.

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