Failure to Make Progress

Submitted by Tim Schwarz on Fri, 11/24/2017 - 12:00 PM

Occasionally, I see a client whose progress towards particular goals is not sufficient to meet those goals before the year term of the IEP. Frustrated parents want to know if this failure is enough to go to litigation, and are always disappointed when I explain it probably is not. Here’s why: 

When evaluating the legality of an IEP, courts look at a snapshot at the moment the IEP is created. The judge essentially asks “What decision did the IEP team make incorrectly?” An IEP need only be “reasonably calculated” to provide educational benefit, and maximizing potential is never required. To be blunt, a student’s lack of success is not a decision of the IEP team, and thus cannot be a wrong decision.  

That said, lack of progress cannot be ignored by the school district. Just like repeating IEP goals, failing to adjust to lack of progress strongly suggests that the school district is going through the motions rather than actively trying to meet a student's needs. This is one of many reasons to try to change progress reports from "Not Addressed/Progressing/Mastery" to numerical measures of how close a student is to meeting the goal. 

Particularly aggravating is when a mid-year IEP meeting leads to downward revision of the goals just because the student is not on pace to meet them. I'm always leery of reducing goals because district officials never seem to have any explanation of what went wrong. Without that explanation, the school district is simply taking advantage of an opportunity to make its life easier instead of trying to create an appropriately challenging educational program for the student. 

If I can prove it, not trying to meet a goal that the IEP team determined was needed for a student to have an appropriately challenging education is a legal violation. If a school district is not working to serve your student, contact me to schedule an initial consultation.


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