BREAKING: Supreme Court Rules For A Special Education Student

supreme court ruling

In a ground-breaking decision the Supreme Court last week ruled that school districts must give students with disabilities an opportunity to make “appropriately ambitious” academic progress. For decades the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that governs how schools provide intervention and special education to children with disabilities, has guaranteed a “free, appropriate public education” (aka, FAPE) to all students with disabilities.  But the law did not define “appropriate”,  leading to the case the Supreme Court ruled on last week.  The Court’s decision adds a little stiffening to this previously undefined term, specifying that schools must provide an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that is “appropriately ambitious”. 

seal supreme court of the United StatesWhat does this mean for a child with a reading, spelling, or writing disorder classified as a Learning Disability and qualified for services under IDEA?   The current ruling seems to suggest that IEP goals must be “appropriately ambitious”, but what is meant by “appropriately ambitious” is still subject to interpretation. 

Based on 8 years of data with thousands of struggling readers and spellers,  Lexercise has set a bar for “ambitious” progress:  90% of children using Lexercise Professional Therapy make at least a year of reading growth in the first 8 weeks.  With the data to back it up, we actually guarantee it!

Click here to learn more about Lexercise’s Structured Literacy Curriculum.


By Ipankonin (Vectorized from  SVG elements from) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Special Education Categories in School

Special Education Categories in School - LexerciseIf your child has dyslexia, the school system may throw some words at you that have different meanings in different contexts. We want to make sure you are equipped with the best information before you make decisions that affect your child’s education. Let’s review the different categories of Special Education.


What is Special Education?

Special education is the practice of educating students with special educational needs in a way that is designed to address their individual differences and needs. A federal law, The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires that public schools provide special education (with an Individual Education Plan or IEP) to eligible students, but not every struggling student is eligible.  Eligibility requires that the student’s school performance be “adversely affected” by a disability in one of 13 specified categories:

  1. specific learning disability – includes reading and writing disorders like dyslexia
  2. other health impairment –  includes attention and executive function disorders
  3. autism spectrum disorder
  4. emotional disturbance
  5. speech or language impairment
  6. visual impairment
  7. deafness
  8. hearing impairment
  9. deaf-blindness
  10. orthopedic impairment – includes cerebral palsy
  11. intellectual disability
  12. traumatic brain injury
  13. multiple disabilities 


Specific Learning Disability 

Special Education Statistics

Specific learning disability (SLD) is the category that dyslexia and dysgraphia fall under for purposes of public school special education services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.”  SLD is the largest special education category, and an estimated 80% of students with SLD have a reading impairment.

Many struggling readers are not eligible for public school special education services. While about 14% of students are eligible for special education services, 25-33% of students read at a below basic level.2   

Dyslexia is more common than you may think, with 15-20% of the school population showing symptoms. If your child has not been diagnosed but is showing symptoms, take our dyslexia screener here for free.


1 What Is Specific Learning Disorder? American Psychiatric Association, Retrieved March 28,2022. 

2 White, T. G., Sabatini, J. P., & White, S. (2021). What Does “Below Basic” Mean on NAEP Reading? Educational Researcher, 50(8), 570–573.