Endrew F. v. Douglas Part 2

Endrew F. v. Douglas Part 2

Endrew F. v. Douglas: Part II

by Dr. Christy Smith

      Part I of this series provided a synopsis of the facts of the case and the Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas (137 S. Ct. 988). In Part II, elements of the decision have been distilled to identify areas that potentially require district action to assure that the IEP planning and development process complies with the expectations established in Endrew F. The U.S. Department of Education’s December 7, 2017 “Questions and Answers (Q & A)” related to the case was used as a resource to identify practices and procedures that may need to be adjusted to align with the refined definition of a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).

            1. Merely more than de minimis educational benefit is not sufficient to provide FAPE.
            • An IEP does not guarantee a specific result, but both IDEA and judicial precedent (Rowley, Endrew F.) establish the expectation that the end result of an IEP is student progress (growth, advancement, improvement).
            • Because the abilities and rates of progress of each student with an IEP are unique, the Court did not quantify the progress a student must make for the district to meet its obligation to provide FAPE.
            • The Court clearly struck down the “merely more than de minimis benefit” (read: “only slightly more than no progress at all”).
            • What does this mean to districts?
                        o IEPs must be data-driven documents created with the expectation that students will grow academically and functionally as a result of the services provided.
                        o IEP teams must have ample hard data, based on multiple measures, to document a student’s present level of academic achievement and functional progress at the time the IEP is developed.
                        o IEP services should be “reasonably calculated” to result in student making progress over the duration of the IEP.
                        o The amount of educational benefit a student receives over the duration of the IEP is the mathematical difference between present level at time IEP was developed and the present level at the time the IEP is reviewed.
                                    • Example: When the IEP was developed, a 5th grade student’s present level of academic performance is reading was on the 3rd grade level. At the time of the Annual Review, the student was able to read on a 4th grade level. Educational benefit was 1 grade level of improvement.
                        o Student progress must be monitored regularly over the duration of the IEP using the measurement(s) determined by the IEP team and included in the document.
                        o If data collection indicates that the student is not making progress as expected, the IEP team must reconvene to review/revise services.

2. Every child is entitled to meet challenging educational objectives based on the same standards as their typical peers.
            • Page six of the DOE’s Q & A document establishes three expectations for rigorous IEPs:
                        o Alignment with challenging state content standards;
                        o Ambitious goals;
                        o Based on unique needs of that child.
            • What does this mean to districts?
                        o The annual measurable goals of an IEP must be based on the same grade level Arkansas content standards taught to typical students.
                        o The IEP must set high expectations for student growth.
                        o Student growth must be monitored regularly through the collection of empirical data and progress reported to parents throughout the year.
                        o Examples:
                               • The reading goal(s) for a 5th grader who reads on a 3rd grade level must be based on Arkansas’ 5th grade reading standards. Fifth graders reading on a 3rd grade level do not have goals based on 3rd grade standards.
                               • The goal(s) may be supported by multiple objectives that, over the course of the school year, move the student from the 3rd to 4th grade reading level.
3. IEP teams must conduct “intensive, fact-specific inquiry”.
            • School personnel must present multiple sources of a student’s data (including parent-provided information) for the team to consider in the IEP development process.
            • Data will establish a student’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to the grade-level expectations, which will guide goal/objective selection.
                        o Goal selection is not a one-size-fits-all process.
                        o Example: It is not appropriate for all 5th grade student with reading deficits to have the same reading goal/objectives because each student’s strengths & needs are different.
            • The “prospective judgment” of school officials (along with the views of parents/guardians) must guide the IEP process.
                        o “prospective judgment” requires the team to analyze a student’s history of growth to establish reasonable expectations
            • What does this mean to districts?
                        o Schools must establish procedures for the regular monitoring and reporting of student progress (or lack of progress).
                        o Quality progress monitoring is much more than a stack of student worksheets.
                        o Assessments used to monitor progress must actually measure a student’s individual goals/objectives.