These stories are heartbreaking, but lack of progress alone does not establish that the school failed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Instead, to prove that the school is not meeting your child's needs you must show that your child is not making progress commensurate with his or her potential. How do you do this? In three steps. (1) Assess Potential (2) Measure Progress (2) Compare Potential to Progress.
Assessing potential is difficult because in a way you are trying to predict the future. One of best ways to assess potential is the seek the advice of an expert. This experts needs to have experience with children whose profiles are similar to your child. This experience with your child's disability, combined with the administration of standardized testing, review of educational records, and consideration of peer-reviewed research, will provide the expert with a reliable estimate of your child's potential.
Another indicator of your child's potential is in your child's IEP. When the school proposes IEP goals they are asserting that your child has the potential to meet these goals within a year. If IEP Goals are
repeated year after year, there is a strong possibility that your child is not making progress commensurate to his or herpotential.
Educational Progress is measured in many ways - report cards, progress reports, standardized tests, and observations. It is also important to consider whether your child has failed to make any progress (stagnation) or lost skills he or she once had (regression).
Compare to Potential to Progress
Only after you have assessed potential and measured progress can you gauge whether your child's progress is commensurate with their potential. Always keep in mind the ultimate purpose of special educational law - to prepare students for further education, employment and indepedent living. Consider your child's current trajectory of progress. If your child will not reach his or her
potential post-secondary goals on this trajectory it may be time for you to request an IEP meeting and
advocate for a different approach.
If you are concerned that your child is not make effective progress, please contact the Boston area law office of Massachusetts special education attorney Lillian E. Wong.