It’s an Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee. The title tells you three of the primary functions of the ARDC. It ADMITS students to the special education program by determining that they are eligible. It REVIEWS the student’s progress at least once a year. And it DISMISSES students from special education.
A recent court case from Maine focuses on the dismissal of a student. The court’s opinion never uses the term “educational need” but that was the main reason that Jane Doe was dismissed from the special education program after seven years of service for her learning disability. At age 15, Jane was receiving A’s in all of her classes. Her strong performance in school was corroborated by state-mandated standardized tests. Jane met or exceeded grade-level expectations in both math and reading.
In December, 2012, the district completed Jane’s three-year reevaluation, which showed that she achieved average or higher scores on a battery of tests with only one exception. She scored “low average” on the Rapid Naming Composite portion of the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing.
Based on that comprehensive evaluation, along with the classroom grades and standardized test scores, the IEP Team determined that Jane was no longer eligible. The parents objected, hired two educational experts to test Jane, and took the matter to a due process hearing.
The hearing officer ruled for the school district, and the federal district court affirmed. The lawyers tried to drag the court into the murky waters of “severe discrepancy” and “standard deviation” and other such arcana. The court dodged it:
As measured by the requirements of the federal regulations, the IEP Team reached this conclusion [that Jane no longer qualified] based on indicia showing that Jane was achieving adequately for her age and meeting State-approved guidelines—Jane’s grades, standardized test scores, and teacher feedback.
Jane’s lawyers tried to focus the court on Jane’s reading fluency scores, and argued that the hearing officer had “veered off course into a consideration of Jane’s academic grades…and scores on Maine’s standardized tests that do not measure reading fluency at all.”
Looking at grades and test scores is hardly “veering off course.” Special education services are designed to assist students with disabilities to achieve at grade level, or as close to it as possible. Grades and test scores tell us whether the student has achieved that or not. The evaluation of a student with a learning disability, under both state and federal law, requires a finding that “the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards.” That makes it pretty clear that achieving at grade level is an important goal.
If the child achieves at grade level, without the provision of special education services, the child does not qualify as a student with a specific learning disability. It’s really that simple.
The case is Doe. v. Cape Elizabeth School Department, decided by the federal district court in Maine on December 29, 2014. The case is at 64 IDELR 272.
DAWG BONE: YOU ARE NOT A STUDENT WITH A LEARNING DISABILITY UNLESS YOU ARE UNDERACHIEVING.