Recent happenings in disability news: What you need to know.

Having a hard time staying on top of it all? Take a look at these three highlights to catch up on the past few weeks:

1. U.S. Department of Education (ED) releases document about IEPs and progress

Remember the Endrew F. case I wrote about here? We now have more information about how the federal government plans to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. As you may remember, the Supreme Court decided that an IEP must be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” This means that progress for one child will look different than progress for another child, and the district must determine individually the meaning of progress for each student.Before Endrew F., schools were required to show that a student’s IEP was designed to give that student “merely more than de minimis” – or a trivial amount – of educational benefit. In other words, any little bit of progress would pass the test.Now, because of the Endrew F. case, the school district must consider the student’s individual circumstances when putting together an IEP. For many students, progressing from grade to grade is an appropriate indication of progress. When a student moves to the next grade, we assume the student has mastered the content from one grade and is ready for the next. For students who require additional support to access grade level curriculum, their IEP should reflect individualized goals based on the student’s unique profile of abilities.The bottom line is that showing minimal progress from year to year is not enough. Instead, “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives” that are appropriate for that particular student, and all students should make meaningful (not trivial!) progress commensurate with their needs.Want to learn more? Read ED’s Q&A document!

2. Parents need to know how their children’s rights will change in private schools

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) – a nonpartisan agency that conducts investigations at the request of congressional members – released a new report this week about special education rights and private schools. GAO looked into the information parents receive about special education services and rights when they enroll their child in a school choice program. (If you’ve heard of voucher programs, those are an example of school choice programs.)GAO studied a nationally representative sample of private schools and found that these schools “inconsistently provide information on changes in rights and protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) when parents move a child with a disability from a public school to a private school.”Why does this matter? Many parents don’t know that their rights, and those of their child, change once their child is no longer enrolled in a public school. Some examples are the procedural safeguards under IDEA and the requirement that students with disabilities receive their education in the least restrictive environment alongside mainstream peers to the greatest extent possible.GAO has recommended that Congress require individual states to notify parents and guardians about these changes in rights when parents enroll their children in private schools. We’ll be tracking this issue and will keep you abreast of any changes.For more information, peruse the GAO report and revisit our blog post about special education rights in private schools.

3. 'Wonder’ movie hits the big screen – and teaches about inclusion, acceptance

Wonder, the new film based on the book by Raquel J. Palacio, hit the big screen in November and has been starting conversations in person and on social media. The main character, Auggie, is a fifth-grade boy whose face doesn’t look quite like everyone else’s. As many of us could predict, and as Auggie unfortunately experienced, his peers were quite unkind towards him. The story follows the ups and downs of a friendship, the devotion of a sibling, and the perseverance of a child who strives to be accepted like everyone else.Have you seen the movie? Has it led to important conversations at home or in the classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below!