Supreme Court articulates new forward-looking standard in the Endrew F. case

January 8, 2018

 Back in 1982, the United States Supreme Court in

Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley addressed the level of instruction and services that must be provided to a student with a disability to satisfy the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, commonly called the IDEA. The Court determined that a student’s Individualized Education Program, "IEP," must be reasonably calculated to provide the student with some educational benefit.


This past March, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 

the Supreme Court provided further guidance as to a school district's duty to provide educational benefit to a child. The Court held that "to meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school district must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances."..."A substantive standard not focused on student progress would do little to remedy the pervasive and tragic academic stagnation that prompted Congress to act" (in 1975 to pass the IDEA). This is a higher standard than had been articulated in the various federal circuit courts, including the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in which California is located.


Soon after the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in the Endrew F. case, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, "COPAA," issued a webinar on the implications of the Endrew F. case.

One of the assertions in the COPAA webinar is that this newly articulated standard is forward-looking: A child's school district must develop a child's IEP based on the child's potential for growth rather than just looking at the child's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. 


For this reason, parents and their attorneys and advocates should argue against the application of the old Ninth Circuit's "snapshot rule." Under this rule, an administrative court is to review the determinations of an IEP team in light of what was objectively reasonable given the information possessed by the team at the time. COPAA points out that to the contrary, subsequent progress with different services is highly relevant as to the child's potential for growth. 


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Martha Millar

Education Attorney










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