Earlier this year, The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted certiorari to Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Special education teachers and school administrators should follow this case because the decision rendered will be far-reaching and will likely bring greater focus to the importance of data. The question to be decided is how much educational benefit a student must gain from an IEP to meet FAPE. For 34 years, Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982), has been the precedent by which the appropriateness of services has been measured. In short, Rowley requires that a child receive some level of educational benefit, but does not establish how much. Absent a quantification by SCOTUS, each Federal circuit has the latitude to determine what qualifies as “educational benefit” in their respective jurisdictions. Consequently, there is not a consistent expectation of progress for each child served under an IEP.
In summary, two resources are critical for IEP teams to write appropriate goals for students: state standards and data. The state standards provide guidance concerning the knowledge, skills, abilities a student with a disability should possess. Data establishes the student’s present levels of functioning as related to state standards. With those two pieces of information, an IEP team can collaborate to create an Individualized Education Program that gives each child genuine access to the same curriculum as all children in a state.