IDEAs That Provide a Solution When the Courts Have Disabled the System 57
A. Some Educational Benefit
Courts in the “some educational benefit” school of thought use language from Rowley that
states, “education to which access is provided [must] be sufficient to confer some educational
benefit.” 98 The Second Circuit has held that a school district must only provide an IEP that is
“likely to produce progress, not regression,” and “afford the student with an opportunity greater
than mere ‘trivial advancement.’”99 Taking language from Rowley, the Ninth Circuit held that
Congress did not apply a standard implying meaningful access, clarifying that states must “confer
some educational benefit upon the [disabled] child.”100 Finally, the Tenth Circuit also notes that
Congress had the ability to increase the standard every time it reauthorized the Act, but instead it
chose to maintain the same statutory definition of a FAPE since its initial conception in the
Circuits in the “some educational benefit” school of thought seem to view the Act as
requiring more benefit than the minimum the Supreme Court required in Rowley. These courts
focus on the language in Rowley, which noted that IEPs represent only a “basic floor of
opportunity” under the IDEA; the Act does not require school districts to provide a level of services
“that would confer additional benefit.”102 To illustrate this school of thought, the Second Circuit
seems to be concerned with “impermissibly meddling in state educational methodology.”103
Another court believes that when it comes to determining if an IEP is reasonably calculated to
proffer a benefit, “courts should not substitute their judgement for that of state and local
educators.”104 Justice Breyer reiterated this statement during oral arguments of Endrew, when he
noted that the Court was being asked to create a definition in an area where it lacked expertise.105
B. Meaningful Educational Benefit
Courts using the “meaningful educational benefit” standard reason that Rowley was a
narrow decision and nothing in it precludes setting the standard of an educational benefit higher
than “some” or “any.”106 Fearing that a difference in the level of education provided could be the
difference in a life of dependency or one of self-sufficiency,107 the Sixth Circuit held that “the
IDEA requires an IEP to confer a ‘meaningful educational benefit’ gauged in relation to the
potential of the child at issue.”108 But, as the attorney for the respondents pointed out in Endrew,
98 Id. at 200–01.
99 Cerra, 427 F.3d at 195 (quoting Walczak v. Fla. Union Free Sch. Dist., 142 F.3d 119, 130 (2d Cir. 1998).
100 J.L. v. Mercer Island Sch. Dist., 592 F.3d 938, 947 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Rowley, 458 U.S. at 200).
101 Endrew F., 798 F.3d at 1339.
102 Cerra, 427 F.3d at 195 (citing Rowley, 458 U.S. at 201).
104 J.K. & J.C. v. Missoula Cnty. Pub. Sch., 2016 WL 4082633, at 11 (D. Mont. July 29, 2016).
105 Transcript, supra note 5, at 14.
106 Deal, 392 F.3d at 863.
108 Id. at 862.