California Special Education Law

Advocacy Resources, Hearing & Appeal Decisions, Statistics and More for Parents

Your Special Needs Child's Legal Rights

What Is an Appropriate Education?

Unfortunately the term “appropriate” as written in the statute is subjective and difficult to define. This is because the IEP is to be developed to meet the specific needs of the individual child, supported by the services necessary for that child to benefit from the instruction. Noticeably absent in the language of IDEA are substantive definitions related to what levels of instruction are necessary.

Different Standards of “Appropriate”

Some states require that a child meet their maximum potential. Other states only open the door and make access meaningful. California does not require a child to meet maximum potential. Instead, California follows the federal standard as set forth in Board of Education v. Rowley. The Rowley standard holds that the state must provide the child with specifically designed instruction and supportive services necessary for that child to obtain some educational benefit from that instruction. Two good measures to determine whether a child is receiving an appropriate education under this standard are: If the child is mainstreamed in a typically developing classroom, the child should be progressing through grades with a grade average of at least a “C;” or the second, and more common method, is if the child is meeting the short-term objectives and annual goals as set forth in their IEP. However, in many cases children may meet the two above-referenced criteria and still not be receiving FAPE. For a number of reasons, such as inappropriate goals and objectives and differential grading, the program does not address the child’s specific areas of need.