Recent News

(Posted 01/10/18)

What Constitutes a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

Do students with disabilities only get an education that provides "merely more than de minimis" benefit? On March 22, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court said 'no'. Their decision in the Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District interprets the law as meaning that students get an educational program that is calculated to "enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child's circumstances" and the court emphasized that "every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives".

On December 7, 2017 the U.S. Department of Education issued a Question and Answer document on this important case to explain the issue, the decision, and how IEP teams can implement the new standard for children with the most significant cognitive disabilities. The document explains that the decision emphasizes the individual decision-making required in the IEP process that includes consideration of the child's present levels of performance, disability, and potential for growth when writing annual goals. The Department notes that "Each child with a disability must be offered an IEP that is designed to provide access to instructional strategies and curricula aligned to both challenging State academic content standards and ambitious goals, based on the unique circumstances of that child".

This Question and Answer document addresses the need to revisit the IEP if expected progress is not occurring and states that the IEP team must then revise the IEP to ensure the child is receiving appropriate interventions, special education, related services, and supplementary aids and services.

Questions and Answers on U.S. Supreme Court Case Decision Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1

 

(Posted 12/22/17)
The Priorities of the Department of Education

On October 12, 2017 the Department of Education issued proposed priorities for the department and the public comment period was open until November 13, 2017. 

The proposed priorities are:

1-Empowering Families to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Child’s Unique Needs

-access to quality educational options/choices

-access to high-quality preschool through 12th grade education

2-Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers

-increase focus on outcomes, decrease emphasis on compliance

3-Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills

-equip students with skills or knowledge required by employers

4-Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens

-provide students with knowledge of civics, financial literacy, problem solving, and employability skills

5-Meeting the Unique Needs of Students and Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents

-ensure students with disabilities have equal access to a high-quality education to be prepared to live productive, independent lives

6-Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, with a Particular Focus on Computer Science

-Expand the capacity of elementary and secondary schools to provide all students with engaging and meaningful opportunities to develop knowledge and competencies in STEM subjects

7-Promoting Literacy

-promote literacy interventions supported by strong evidence

-provide families with evidence-based strategies for promoting literacy at home

-facilitate the accurate and timely use of data by educators to improve reading instruction and make informed decisions about how to help students build literacy skills while protecting student and family privacy

-integrate literacy instruction into content-area teaching

8-Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools

-support educators as teacher quality is the most important school-related factor in impacting student academic performance

-support recruitment or retention of effective educators

-increase professional development for teachers of science, technology, engineering and math subjects

9-Promoting Economic Opportunity

-promote economic mobility of low-income parents and children

-build greater effective family engagement in their students’ education

10-Encouraging Improved School Climate and Safer and More Respectful Interactions in a Positive and Safe Educational Environment

-ensure that students and educators of all backgrounds are able to engage in respectful dialogue without fear of retribution

-stop bullying and ensure that every child can learn in a safe environment

11-Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Choices

 

(Posted 12/21/17)
Stay Put Placement Rule

Due process hearings are the most formal way of resolving a dispute between parents and school districts.  When a parent files a due process hearing request, the request triggers “stay-put”.  This is a provision designed to make sure that no changes are made to a child’s placement until issues that might affect the placement have been decided by a hearing officer.  The child remains in the last placement the parties agreed to prior to the due process request.  A district can proceed with a placement in 10 calendar days after an IEP meeting unless the parent has made a formal objection, so filing for the due process when a parent wants the “stay-put” provision to be implemented must be done within that 10 days. 

Recent changes to the law have also made the “stay-put” provision available during the mediation process.  Mediation is a less formal, voluntary process designed to help parties reach agreements to resolve potential disputes.  A mediation can take place whether or not a due process case has been filed. 

House Bill 2618 amended the Illinois School Code, effective August 18, 2017, to clarify that if a parent seeks to preserve the child’s “stay-put” placement by requesting mediation, the 10-day timeline for the parent to request a due process hearing in order to continue to maintain the “stay-put” placement starts to run when the mediation is terminated without an agreement or the school district declines necessary to participate in mediation. 

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to review and revise as deemed necessary its standard notification of procedural safeguards for parents at least every 2 years.  

 

(Posted 12/05/17)
Complaints to the Office for Civil Rights

During November 2017 the Education Department in Washington DC proposed that civil rights investigations done at schools should focus on individual complaints rather than systemic problems. Also proposed was a revision that would allow schools to negotiate a resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights before the written findings are released to parents. These proposals will be reviewed and a final version will be released next year after suggestions are received from staff.

Civil Rights Work in Schools

 

(Posted 12/05/17)
Revision to the Illinois School Student Records Act

The Illinois School Student Records Act governs what records schools keep, for how long, and who has access to both permanent and temporary records.

A "student permanent record" includes such things as the student's name, birth date, address, grades and grade level, parents' names and addresses, and attendance records. A "student temporary record" may include family background information, intelligence test scores, aptitude test scores, psychological and personality test results, teacher evaluations, individualized education program forms, and information on serious disciplinary infractions.

A parent or any person specifically designated as a representative by a parent has the right to inspect and copy all school student permanent and temporary records of that parent's child. A student has the right to inspect and copy his or her school student permanent record.

Previously the school had 15 school days after receiving a request to inspect or copy student records to comply with that request. Effective September 22, 2017, a school district must respond to a request for student records within 10 business days. A "school day" is definded as Monday, through Friday, except for Federal and State holidays. This will mean that record copies will be available to parents over the summer months.

Public Act 100-532

 

(Posted 09/18/17)
New Illinois Voucher Program for Education

Senate Bill 1947, signed into law by Governor Rauner as Public Act 100-0465 on August 31, 2017, provides funding for Illinois School Districts. Included in this legislation is a new voucher program for public school children to attend private schools. Taxpayers can donate money to any approved scholarship organization who will then offer scholarships for students to attend the private school of their choice. The donor will receive a tax credit of 75% of the donation amount.

All students from families that earn $73,000 a year or less are eligible for scholarships which are capped at the state's average state-wide per pupil expenditure. (In 2014-2015 that was $12,821.)

Public Act 100-0465

 

(Posted 09/18/17)
No Plan, No Diploma

In April 2017 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel mandated that, starting in 2020, every public school student in Chicago must have a postsecondary plan in place before receiving a high school diploma. Students will need to present their school with an authorized document confirming they are enrolling in a college, being admitted to a trade school, enlisting in the military, or have been hired for a job. This mandate was approved by the school board. Chicago Publix Schools in the first district in the United States to have this requirement for receiving a high school diploma. The idea is to reduce the number of high school graduates who end up without employment and who are forced to make money by dangerous means. In Chicago 47% of black men ages 20-24 are neither employed or in a school setting.

Read more about this mandate from CNN News:

Chicago's New Requirement for High School Students: No Plan, No Diploma

 

(Posted 08/16/17)
A Chance to Provide Input on Federal Regulations

Following the passage of a federal law, regulations governing the implementation of that law are developed and then coded in the Federal Register. Regulations related to special education and Early Intervention are coded under Title 34 - Education, Subtitle B, Chapter III in the Code of Federal Regulations. On June 22, 2017, the federal government requested input on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. The comment period was to have ended on August 21, 2017, but the deadline has been extended to September 30, 2017. The Department of Education will consider all input, but will not respond directly to individual comments. Commenters should be as specific as possible, and:

  • provide a Federal Register (FR) or CFR citation when referencing a specific regulation or, where practicable, a link when referencing a particular guidance document;
  • include any supporting data or other applicable information;
  • provide specific suggestions regarding repeal, replacement, or modification; and
  • explain with specificity why the referenced regulation or guidance should be repealed, replaced, or modified.
     

Regulations specific to the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services - OSERS

Valuable information to consider before submitting comments

Comment submission

 

(Posted 08/11/17)
Illinois State Board of Education's Consolidated State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law for all students, requires that each state submit a plan on student achievement goals and measuring school performance. Governor Rauner signed the Illinois Plan on April 11, 2017. The plan states that a "universal culture of high expectations is fundamental to creating and supporting the conditions that provide the best opportunities for all students". The vision is that "Illinois is a state of whole, healthy children nested in whole, healthy systems supporting communities wherein all citizens are socially and economically secure".

Illinois has a goal that 60% of its residents earn high-quality degrees and career credentials by 2025. The long-term goals to be achieved by 2032 are:

  • 90% or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level
  • 90% or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics
  • 90% or more of ninth-grade students are on track to graduate with their cohort
  • 90% or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career

 

Student growth will be monitored by the administration of PARCC testing in grades 3-8 and the SAT in high school. Students with the most significant disabilities will be assessed using the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternative Assessment. Factors that will be considered when deeming a student to be on track for graduation include if they earn at least five full-year course credits and have no more than one semester F in a core course in their first year of high school. Indicators of college and career readiness will include a GPA of 2.8 out of 4.0 and 95% attendance in high school junior and senior years. Chronic absenteeism will also be assessed as a student success indicator.

ISBE will use a system of four tiers to differentiate schools.

  • Tier 1-Exemplary School: no underperforming subgroups; graduation rate greater than 67%; performance in top 10% statewide
  • Tier 2-Commendable School: no underperforming subgroups; graduation rate greater than 67%; performance not in top 10% statewide
  • Tier 3-Underperforming School: one or more subgroups performing at or below the level of the 'all students' group in the lowest-performing 5% of Title 1 schools. (These schools will receive targeted services.)
  • Tier 4-Lowest-Performing School: in the lowest-performing 5% Title 1 schools AND those high schools that have a graduation rate of 67% or less. (These schools will receive comprehensive services.

Subgroups of students include: 

  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
  • Children with Disabilities
  • English Learners
  • Former English Learners
  • Students Formerly with a Disability
  • Students from Each Major Racial and Ethnic Group

Subgroups must consist of at least 10 studetns to be reported, and at least 20 students to be differentiated for accountability.

The Illinois State Board of Education will provide access to supports identified as necessary to meet these goals by a district or school through IL-EMPOWER. Schools will identify areas where they need support and then select a vendor who can best assist in meeting those needs. The chosen vendor will work with the school to develop a work plan and ISBE will then grant the appropriate amount of funding to each school or district. Progress wil be monitored, and schools that are not making reasonable progress will work directly with ISBE to determine additional interventions.

Illinois State Plan

 

(Posted 07/25/17)
Updated Terminiology in the Law

Rosa's Law, signed in 2010, amended federal law by removing all references to "mental retardation" and replacing them with the words "intellectual disability". On July 11, 2017, these changes were also coded into the federal regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and The Rehabilitation Act. Rosa Marcellino has Down syndrome and her family led the fight for the removal of the outdated terminology. Her father, Nick, said "What you call people is how you treat them. If we change the words, maybe it will be the start of a new attitude toward people with disabilities."

 

(Posted 07/25/17)
Illinois Teacher Licensing Requirements

There is a critical shortage of teachers in Illinois. More than 1,000 positions are unfilled. Illinois Public Act 100-0013 was recently signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner to reduce barriers for educators to become licensed. The new requirements to effect July 1, 2017.

Changes to the School Code include:

  • Lowers the minimum age for an individual to apply for an educator license to 19.
  • Allows individuals who hold a valid Career and Technical Education (CTE) license to substitute teach CTE courses.
  • Removes the 20-hour coursework requirement for individuals who want to renew a provisional CTE license.
  • Provides statutory authority for the Director of Special Education endorsement.
  • Applies the Administrator Academy requirement to maintain an active administrator license only to individuals who have worked in an administrative position within the past five years.
  • Allows school psychologists to renew their Illinois licenses by providing proof of valid national licensure.

 

To read the news release on the Illinois State Board of Education's Website: https://www.isbe.net/Lists/News?newsDisplay.aspx?ID=1162

To read the full text of Public Act 100-0013: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/100/PDF/100-0013.pdf

 

(Posted 07/10/17)
IDEA Regulations Change

In 2015 the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The changes to this federal education law required the federal SPECIAL education regulations to change in order to ensure consistency.  These changes to the regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were published in the federal register June 30, 2017.

Most of the changes are corrections to reference numbers in the new law.  However, the term “highly qualified” has been removed and references instead talk about special education teachers who “meet the applicable requirements”.  Those personnel qualifications are outlined in Section 300.156(c)

Additional changes to note relate to the definition of a high school diploma, references to student progress, and rules governing alternate assessment:

Section 300.102 (a)(3)(iv)

Old version:

…..the term regular high school diploma does not include an alternative degree that is not fully aligned with the State’s academic standards, such as a certificate or a general educational development credential (GED).

New version:

…..the term regular high school diploma means the standard high school diploma awarded to the preponderance of students in the State that is fully aligned with State standards, or a higher diploma, except that a regular high school diploma shall not be aligned to the alternate academic achievement standards…....  A regular high school diploma does not include a recognized equivalent of a diploma, such as a general equivalency diploma, certificate of completion, certificate of attendance, or similar lesser credential.

Section 300.157(a)(2)

Old version:

The State must have in effect established goals for the performance of children with disabilities in the State that are the same as the State’s objectives for progress by children in its definition of adequate yearly progress, including the State’s objectives for progress by children with disabilities.

New version:

The State must have in effect established goals for the performance of children with disabilities in the State that are the same as the State’s long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for children with disabilities. 

Section 300.160(c); 300.160(d); and 300.160(e)

Old version:

(c) Alternate assessments. (1) A State (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for the participation of children with disabilities in alternate assessments for those children who cannot participate in regular assessments, even with accommodations, as indicated in their respective IEPs, as provided in paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) For assessing the academic progress of students with disabilities under Title I of the ESEA, the alternate assessments and guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section must provide for alternate assessments that—

(i) Are aligned with the State's challenging academic content standards and challenging student academic achievement standards;

(ii) If the State has adopted alternate academic achievement standards permitted in 34 CFR 200.1(d), measure the achievement of children with the most significant cognitive disabilities against those standards; and

(iii) Except as provided in paragraph (c)(2)(ii) of this section, a State's alternate assessments, if any, must measure the achievement of children with disabilities against the State's grade-level academic achievement standards, consistent with 34 CFR 200.6(a)(2)(ii)(A).

(3) Consistent with 34 CFR 200.1(e), a State may not adopt modified academic achievement standards for any students with disabilities under section 602(3) of the Act.

(d) Explanation to IEP teams. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must provide IEP teams with a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State or local policies on the student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards (such as whether only satisfactory performance on a regular assessment would qualify a student for a regular high school diploma).

(e) Inform parents. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed based on alternate academic achievement standards are informed that their child's achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards.

(f) Reports. An SEA (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must make available to the public, and report to the public with the same frequency and in the same detail as it reports on the assessment of nondisabled children, the following:

(1) The number of children with disabilities participating in regular assessments, and the number of those children who were provided accommodations (that did not result in an invalid score) in order to participate in those assessments.

(2) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards.

(3) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2015-2016.

(4) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards.

(5) Compared with the achievement of all children, including children with disabilities, the performance results of children with disabilities on regular assessments, alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards, alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards (prior to 2015-2016), and alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards if—

(i) The number of children participating in those assessments is sufficient to yield statistically reliable information; and

(ii) Reporting that information will not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student on those assessments.

New version:

(c) Alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. (1) If a State has adopted alternate academic achievement standards for children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities as permitted in section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA, the State (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must develop and implement alternate assessments and guidelines for the participation in alternate assessments of those children with disabilities who cannot participate in regular assessments, even with accommodations, as indicated in their respective IEPs, as provided in paragraph (a) of this section.

(2) For assessing the academic progress of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities under title I of the ESEA, the alternate assessments and guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section must—

(i) Be aligned with the challenging State academic content standards under section 1111(b)(1) of the ESEA and alternate academic achievement standards under section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA; and

(ii) Measure the achievement of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities against those standards.

(3) Consistent with section 1111(b)(1)(E)(ii) of the ESEA and 34 CFR 200.6(c)(6), a State may not adopt modified academic achievement standards or any other alternate academic achievement standards that do not meet the requirements in section 1111(b)(1)(E) of the ESEA for any children with disabilities under section 602(3) of the IDEA.

(d) Explanation to IEP Teams. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must—

(1) Provide to IEP teams a clear explanation of the differences between assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards and those based on alternate academic achievement standards, including any effects of State and local policies on a student's education resulting from taking an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards, such as how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma; and

(2) Not preclude a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities who takes an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

(e) Inform parents. A State (or in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must ensure that parents of students selected to be assessed using an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards under the State's guidelines in paragraph (c)(1) of this section are informed, consistent with 34 CFR 200.2(e), that their child's achievement will be measured based on alternate academic achievement standards, and of how participation in such assessments may delay or otherwise affect the student from completing the requirements for a regular high school diploma.

(f) Reports. An SEA (or, in the case of a district-wide assessment, an LEA) must make available to the public, and report to the public with the same frequency and in the same detail as it reports on the assessment of nondisabled children, the following:

(1) The number of children with disabilities participating in regular assessments, and the number of those children who were provided accommodations (that did not result in an invalid score) in order to participate in those assessments.

(2) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2017-2018.

(3) The number of children with disabilities, if any, participating in alternate assessments aligned with modified academic achievement standards in school years prior to 2016-2017.

(4) The number of children with disabilities who are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities participating in alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards.

(5) Compared with the achievement of all children, including children with disabilities, the performance results of children with disabilities on regular assessments, alternate assessments based on grade-level academic achievement standards (prior to 2017-2018), alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards (prior to 2016-2017), and alternate assessments aligned with alternate academic achievement standards if—

(i) The number of children participating in those assessments is sufficient to yield statistically reliable information; and

(ii) Reporting that information will not reveal personally identifiable information about an individual student on those assessments.

To view the final IDEA regulations as of June 30, 2017, go to: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title34/34cfr300_main_02.tpl

 

(Posted 07/10/17)
Preparing Students for Life after High School

What actions should students take from middle school through the end of high school to select the right postsecondary education option, to prepare for a career, or to access financial aid opportunities?

On June 22, 2017, Illinois adopted a new framework for supporting and advancing student efforts in these areas. The cross-agency effort is designed to ensure students have academic and work experiences that support them and their families in making well-informed plans and decisions for their adult life. The framework has been adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

The one-page official PaCE framework is available at: www.isbe.net/Documents/PaCE_Revisions.pdf

 

(Posted 06/2/17)
New Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Website

On June 1, 2017 the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs lauched a new website about the federal law governing special education, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Features include:

  • a clean, modern, and intuitive design;
  • the ability to search among OSEP policy documents, letters, and memos, in addition to the IDEA statute and regulations;
  • content targeted toward our key stakeholder groups, and
  • enhanced accessibility features, including language assistance supports.

 

On the site's RESOURCE tab, parents can read articles of interest under the TOPIC AREAS link.

Examples of topics available:

  • Accessibility of Instructional Materials
  • Assessment - State and District-wide Testing
  • Bullying
  • Discipline/Behavioral Supports
  • Early Childhood Inclusion
  • Evaluation and Reevaluation
  • IEPs
  • Parental Rights
  • Secondary Transition

 

Visit the site at: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/?src=pr

(Posted 05/31/17)
Understood.org Helps Parents Organize Records Regarding Their Child's Education

Parents want the best for their children. We do, too. For the first time ever, 15 nonprofit organizations have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey. With the right support, parents can help children unlock their strengths and reach their full potential. With state-of-the-art technology, personalized resources, free daily access to experts, a secure online community, practical tips and more, Understood aims to be that support.

Organize your child's school records and information about your communication with the school using the IEP binder suggestions from Understood.org: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM2ebK07yYM

IEP Binder checklist

School Contact List

Parent/School Communication Log

IEP Goal Tracker

(Posted 05/31/17)
National Center on Improving Literacy

The National Center on Improving Literacy has just launched its website. The center is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is a partnership among literacy experts, university researchers, and technical assistance providers. Their mission is to increase access to, and use of, evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and teach students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia.

The resources on the site are divided into those for parents and families, schools and districts, and state agencies. The site includes a list of videos, downloads, and other websites to access.

The resource topics include: advocacy, assessments, auditory processing, comprehension, dyslexia, English learners, fluency with text, identification, interventions, language development, language processing, legislation, phonemic awareness, phonics, phonological processing, professional development, screening, vocabulary, and writing.

Visit the site at: http://improvingliteracy.org/

 

(Posted 05/31/17)

Special Education Eligibility under "Visual Impairment" 

Any impairment in vision, regardless of significance or severity, must be included in a State's definition of the special education eligibility category of "visual impairment including blindness", provided that such impairment, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Some states were implementing a two-step process for finding eligibility under this category. They were first determining if a child had a condition that the State identified as one that could affect visual functioning and, having found the condition present, then determining if this condition adversely affected the child's educational performance. The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehavilitation Services issued a memo on May 22, 2017 explaining that this process might mean that a team could eliminate a child in the first step of the process even though the child might have a visual condition that would affect educational performance. The memo concludes that, while it is permissible for a State to provide EXAMPLES of the types of conditions that meet the eligibility criteria, the team must look at functional vision issues no matter what the visual impairment.

The memo points out that an evaluation of a child's vision status should be thorough and rigorous. The evaluation should look at the child's vision status should look at the child's ability to read, write, do math, use assistive technology, and make progress in the general curriculum. In addition, the evaluation must assess a child's future needs.

For information on visual impairments and how they can affect learning: www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/visualimpairment/

To read the memo: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/letter-on-visual-impairment-5-22-17.pdf

 

(Posted 03/23/17)
Supreme Court Rules on What Constitutes FAPE - A Free Appropriate Public Education

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that States provide every eligible child with a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE.  But how do courts define what constitutes “appropriate”?

In Board of Ed. of Hendrick Hudson Central School Dist., Westchester Cty. V. Rowley in 1982, the Supreme Court held that FAPE was satisfied if the child’s individualized education program was “reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits”.  The decision meant that schools were not required to ensure that students achieved their full potential as learners. 

The parents of Endrew F., a child with autism, filed a complaint under IDEA with the Colorado Department of Education because they believed Endrew’s academic and functional progress had stalled and the school’s proposed IEP resembled IEPs from past years.  Their claim that Endrew was not receiving FAPE was denied and a Federal District Court agreed with the denial.  The Tenth Circuit Court also affirmed the claim denial by saying that Rowley required that educational benefit only had to be “merely more than de minimis” and that Endrew’s IEP was calculated to enable him to make “some” progress.  This standard was adopted by other courts and school districts. 

The parents took the case to the Supreme Court and a decision was issued on March 22, 2017 in the Endrew F v. Douglas County Schools case.   The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an IEP must provide an education that is calculated to allow a student to “make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances”. The standard of “merely more than de minimis” was rejected, but the parents’ request that FAPE is “an education that aims to provide a child with a disability opportunities to achieve academic success, attain self-sufficiency, and contribute to society that are substantially equal to the opportunities afforded children without disabilities” was also rejected.  The decision does include language from Rowley that an IEP typically should be “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade”.

Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District Decision