Trump Administration Weighs In On FAPE, IEPs
Nine months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the right of students with disabilities to a free appropriate public education, the U.S. Department of Education is shedding light on the decision’s implications.
In a new nine-page question and answer document addressing the high court’s opinion in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, federal education officials are offering up their take on how educators, parents and other stakeholders should apply the ruling in real-world situations.
The Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case in March finding that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides students with disabilities the right to more than minimal progress from one year to the next.
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Individualized education programs “must be appropriately ambitious in light of (a child’s) circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom,” the court determined. “The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”
The new Q&A outlines the court’s findings in Endrew F., how the ruling fits into existing case law, clarifies how FAPE is defined and what standard should be used to determine if the mandate has been met.
Given the Endrew F. ruling, the Education Department said in the document that IEPs must include goals that aim to improve both functional and educational performance. In addition, IEP teams must reconsider a student’s plan if the child is not making expected progress toward annual goals.
“The Supreme Court sent a strong and unanimous message: all children must be given an opportunity to make real progress in their learning environment — they cannot simply be passed along from year to year without meaningful improvement,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in releasing the explainer. “For too long, too many students offered IEPs were denied that chance. I firmly believe all children, especially those with disabilities, must be provided the support needed to empower them to grow and achieve ambitious goals.”
Special education and disability advocacy groups largely welcomed the Education Department’s move to clarify the implications of Endrew F.
“The U.S. Department of Education has issued a helpful resource,” said Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. “The Endrew F. decision means that no matter where you live, IEP teams, which include parents, must now assure that every child’s IEP is developed and implemented to ensure educational progress as both the goal and the outcome.”
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