New Developments in Endrew F: “Meaningful Progress” at the Supreme Court

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (2017) was a landmark Supreme Court decision for students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), and there was another win in the case for special education rights this week. The United States District Court reconsidered Endrew’s case in light of the Supreme Court’s new and improved standard on progress, determined that Endrew’s IEP “was not reasonably calculated to enable him to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances” and ordered that Endrew’s family be reimbursed for tuition at his private school.

In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the Supreme Court considered a question that many parents and IEP teams have been debating for years: How much progress is sufficient? The Supreme Court ruled that the Douglas County Colorado School District had not provided Endrew, a student with autism, with an IEP that would allow him to make sufficient progress, and that just more than “di minimis” progress was insufficient. The Court said, “a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances…a student offered an educational program providing merely more than de minimis progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all. For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to sitting idly…awaiting the time when they are old enough to drop out…every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”

Legal speak aside, this case is the difference between the old standard– requiring that a child make some progress (a tiny bit more than none), and a new standard– requiring that a child make “meaningful” progress for that INDIVIDUAL child. This is a win for all students who receive special education services! 

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