As a teacher, how can I advocate for a third grade student who receives resource support services, but failed to make any progress in reading or math this year?
Her parents paid for a daily specialized reading program for three months. She made astounding progress.
She learned to read and her scores improved greatly. Her parents have now requested the school fund the continuation of this program for reading comprehension and the LMB math program.
The school district says “No.” They say they have a solid reading and math program, while not “a cadillac,” it works.
The program they use may be good, but it has not been adequate for this child to learn or reach her potential.
You are right. A program the school considers “good” may not be adequate for every child, depending on the child’s needs.
The bottom line is the child has a right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If she did not learn and make progress in the district’s program, the district did not provide her with FAPE.
The parents were faced with a choice:
- keep her in the district’s program where she isn’t learning the most basic skills, or
- pull her out and pay for the services she needs.
Fortunately, the parents took the second option. But this is not what Congress envisioned when they enacted the IDEA in 1975.
What the Courts Have Said
The district should reimburse the parents for the cost of the child’s education retroactively and prospectively. Courts have held that while children are not entitled to a Cadillac, they are entitled to a serviceable Chevrolet that runs. Courts have also held that if a child isn’t learning, the school provided a lemon and the school should reimburse.
Of course, schools are not inclined to do this. This is especially true when they claim that their program, which didn’t teach a child to read, “works.”
The special education law is based on the fact that children learn differently.
A standardized one-size-fits all reading and math program may “work” for most kids, but it won’t work for every child. This is why the law requires schools to provide services that are individualized to meet the unique needs of each child.
For reasons that are not clear to me, many schools don’t seem to understand the requirement that they must individualize instruction. If a child isn’t learning in a particular program, that program doesn’t “work.” The school must provide a different program that does work.
Thanks for caring about the kids!
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