U.S. Department of Education issues Question & Answer document on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Endrew

On December 7, 2017, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of Education issued a question and answer document on the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Endrew v. Douglas County School District (2017).  The question and answer document can be found at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-endrewcase-12-07-2017.pdf

The intent of officials at OSERS in issuing this document was to provide parents, educators, and other stakeholders with a synopsis of this important ruling and describe how the decision in the Endrew case should inform school district’s efforts to improve academic and functional outcomes for students with disabilities.  The document included 20 questions and OSERS responses to these questions.  The document is divided into the following three sections:

Section 1-An overview of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Endrew

Section 2-Clarification of FAPE requirement of the IDEA

Section 3-Considerations for implementation of the Endrew ruling.

In the document, officials in OSERS examined the importance of the new higher educational benefit standard developed by the Supreme Court and reiterated that to meet the higher standard IEP teams must develop special education programs that “provide meaningful opportunities for appropriate academic and functional advancement and to enable the child to make progress” (OSERS, 2017, p.6).  According to OSERS, IEP teams can accomplish this by focusing on the individualized needs of a student conduct and conducting a thorough and meaningful assessments of all of a student’s needs, and then focusing on (a) a student’s academic and functional needs, (b) the views of the student’s parents, (c) a student’s disability, and (d) a student’s potential for growth, when developing his or her IEP.  Moreover, to ensure that a student’s IEP is reasonably calculated to enable a student to make academic and functional progress, the student’s IEP must include ambitious and challenging goals and objectives, and be revisited if he or she is not making the expected progress.  Monitoring a student’s progress is particularly important because, according to OSERS, the Supreme Court’s decision in Endrew “clarified that the standard for determining whether an IEP is sufficient to provide FAPE is whether the child is offered an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress that is appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” (OSERS, 2017, p. 7).  Officials at OSERS wrote that a student’s “parents and other IEP team members should collaborate and partner to track progress appropriate to the child’s circumstances” (OSERS, 2017, p. 8) and also noted that LEAs and SEAs should provide support and guidance to school personnel to ensure that they develop IEPs that meet the new Endrew standard for conferring a FAPE.

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