The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Board of Education v. Rowley [458 U.S. 176 (1982)] declared that under federal law an “appropriate” educational program and placement is designed to meet a student’s unique needs, if it provides services to the disabled student sufficient for her to obtain “educational benefit,” and it is provided in conformity with the student’s IEP. In addition, the program must be provided to the maximum extent appropriate in the least restrictive environment. It does not entitle the student to the “best” possible educational program or a “potential maximizing” education. The Rowley case was specifically adopted by the federal courts governing California in a decision called Gregory K. v. Longview Sch. District [811 F.2d 1307 (9th Cir. 1987)].
The courts are constantly exploring the determination of what is “educational benefit.” Certainly, the plan of instruction and placement should be likely to result in meaningful educational progress and not regression or trivial educational advancement. In California, educational benefit is measured by whether the child is making progress toward achieving the central goals of the IEP. [County of San Diego v. Cal. Special Ed. Hearing Office, 93 F.3d 1458 (9th Cir. 1996).] In addition, an appropriate education is one in which a student is involved in — and making progress in-— the general curriculum. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1414(d)(1)(A)(aa); 34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.320(a)(2)(A); Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 56345(a)(2)(A).]