Why Your Child is Not Entitled
to the "Best" Education

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September 9, 2008

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 452
Subscribers: 63,826

In This Issue:

What is a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

Strike These Terms from your Vocabulary

Four Lessons for Parents about FAPE

How Can I Get the School to Provide an Appropriate Program?


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FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education
Child Entitled to Education that is Appropriate
...and Free
Board of Education v. Amy Rowley
Walzak v. Florida Free Union School District
ATTN! VA Parents
& Advocates

What Happens Next on Special Ed Regs?

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Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043



Copyright 2008, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your web site without explicit permission.

As parents, we want what's best for our children.

Have you asked the IEP Team for more intensive special education services for your child, but cannot get them to agree? Did they suggest you have unrealistically high expectations for your child?

IDEA 2004 provides your child with the right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). Does this guarantee the "best" education? If you don't know the answer to that question, read on.

In this issue of the Special Ed Advocate you will learn who is responsible for providing FAPE and how it is delivered. You will learn how the courts have interpreted the meaning of "appropriate" education.

Next week, in Part 2, we'll learn more about FAPE, what to do when your child's IEP is not appropriate and how to avoid the conflict of due process.

Please don't hesitate to forward this issue of the Special Ed Advocate to other families, friends, and colleagues.

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What is a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

...and Who is Responsible for Providing FAPE?

The school is responsible for providing your child with FAPE. Your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the roadmap that describes how the school will provide your child with an appropriate education.

When you develop, review, or revise your child's IEP, re-read the Purpose of IDEA.

  • Is the IEP designed to meet your child's unique needs?
  • Will the goals in the IEP prepare your child "for further education, employment and independent living?"

The answers to these questions will help you determine if the IEP and the services it provides are appropriate.

Strike These Terms from your Vocabulary

Courts have held that while children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate education, they are not entitled to the "best" education, nor to an education that "maximizes" the child's potential.

Courts have also held that to receive a free appropriate public education, the child must receive meaningful educational benefit.

Read Who Is Responsible for Providing FAPE? to find out more about:

  • Educational Benefit
  • Vague Goals and Objectives
  • Improved Outcomes

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Four Lessons for Parents about FAPE

1. Your child is NOT entitled to the BEST special education.

As a parent, you must eliminate the word "best" from your vocabulary when you discuss your child's educational needs. Remember: Your child is entitled to an appropriate education. not to the best education, nor to an education that will maximize your child's potential.

To understand these concepts - FAPE v. maximizing or "best" - read Loving Parents Want What's "Best" For Child - School Only Needs to Provide "Appropriate Program".

2. Parent testimony carries little weight in the eyes of hearing officers and judges.

Loving parents are biased. Parents want the best education for their children with disabilities. Testimony from parents about what their child needs is not persuasive and rarely carries the day.

3. School staff will testify that their program is appropriate about 99% of the time.

At least 99% of the time, school staff will testify that their program is appropriate and the best program for the child. (Note: School staff can and do use the word "best," but parents cannot.)

4. Parents must have experts who know the child and who are willing to educate the IEP team about the child's unique needs and what an appropriate program must include to meet these needs.

If you have a dispute with the school, you need to have experts in the private sector who have evaluated and observed your child. Experts must never use the terms "best" or "maximizing potential" in their reports or testimony.

Read the article about "appropriate" programs and the caselaw that supports this concept.

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How Can I Get the School to Provide an Appropriate Program?

Unfortunately, school culture often prevents school staff from realizing that sometimes, parents really do know what their children need.

Read the story of what one mother did when her son fell further behind after entering special ed.

When my child entered special education, he was in the 2nd grade. His reading grade level was 1.3. He is now in the 5th grade. After 30 months of special education, his reading grade level is 2.3. 

Read How Can I Get the School to Provide an Appropriate Program.

Learn more about FAPE.

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