The US Department of Education (“DOE”) issued guidance on the United States Supreme Court decision, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, seeking to provide parents and other stakeholders with information on the potential impact of the Endrew F. decision and its implementation on December 7, 2017.
The DOEs guidance highlighted that the essential function of an IEP is to provide meaningful opportunities for academic and functional advancement for every child with a disability. In that vein, the Endrew F. decision clarified that school districts may not simply provide “merely more than de minimis” educational benefit and still meet its free and appropriate public education (“FAPE”) obligation. Rather, the school district can only provide a child with FAPE when its IEP is “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress in light of the child’s circumstances.” And, importantly, that IEP must give the child “an opportunity to meet challenging goals and objectives.”
When determining whether the team’s IEP meets this standard, the DOE advises that the IEP team consider:
- how the special education and related services have been provided to the child in the past and the effectiveness of those services;
- the child’s rate of academic growth;
- whether the child is on track to achieve or exceed grade-level proficiency;
- any behaviors that are interfering with the child’s progress; and
- input from the parents as part of the IEP team.
It is the DOE’s opinion that an IEP that considers the above criteria while developing annual goals that aim to improve the student’s educational and functional performance will necessarily meet the Endrew F. requirement that each child be given an opportunity to meet challenging goals and objectives.
Lastly, the DOE reminds school districts of their obligation to monitor a student’s progress throughout the school year and modify the goals and objectives accordingly. The use of periodic progress reporting should be used to meet this obligation and school district’s should provide the child’s parents with periodic updates on the child’s progress to allow for their meaningful participation in the IEP process.