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Schools required to provide students with disabilities a quality education; defining 'quality' varies

by Sharita Forrest / Jan 25, 2017

James Shriner

Schools should collect data on educational needs of students with disabilities for meaningful Individualized Educational Plans, says James Shriner

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a potentially landmark case which asks the court to decide the educational benefits that public schools are required to provide to students with disabilities. James Shriner, an associate professor in the Department of Special Education, spoke with Illinois News Bureau education editor Sharita Forrest about the case and state and federal regulations on special education.

The heart of the case, according to Shriner, centers on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), which specifies a child’s learning goals every school year and the benefits received through the learner’s educational progress.

“If a student makes progress on one goal out of five, does that constitute ‘some benefit?’” Shriner said in the interview. “Conversely, if the targets are set so low that almost any progress allows the student to meet his learning goals, is that ‘significant benefit?’”

Shriner discussed in the interview what level of education and support services schools are mandated to provide students with disabilities, and he weighed in on whether or not the Endrew F. case would result in more clearly defined federal regulations for the education of children with disabilities.

“The Supreme Court will probably fine-tune the federal standard to indicate that students with disabilities ought to be given the same, meaningful opportunities as their nondisabled peers, to the extent that’s possible,” Shriner said.

Shriner added that the Supreme Court likely won’t require schools to show that every student achieves a predetermined amount of progress to confirm that they have received an educational benefit.

Part of Shriner’s research has involved creating tools to help educators write meaningful IEPs. The IEP Quality Project is a web-based tutorial and decision-making support system and information resource for all public school and special education professionals in Illinois. The tutorial focuses on creating quality IEPs for students who will participate in Illinois’ general state achievement testing.

Read the full article from the Illinois News Bureau.